Companies spent $120 billion on professional speakers in 1999, according to the National Speakers Association. Why? Because professional speakers can raise the level of a meeting. Most work extensively with their client company before they step into the spotlight so that they know their audience, the goals of the meeting, and the impression that the company wants to leave with its employees.

How can you bring in an exceptional speaker with an average meeting budget? Here are some tips for cutting speaker costs:

  1. Ask your speaker to fly coach before you make a firm offer for the date. Your speaker will be more willing to negotiate at this time than after a contract is submitted.

  2. Try to piggyback with another group that has your speaker booked in the same meeting city. Or book a speaker who is based in your meeting destination.

  3. Propose an all-inclusive fee before going to contract. This way, you mitigate the risks and costs associated with escalating airfares, last-minute airline reservations, or tickets booked without including a Saturday-night stay.

  4. If your speaker will not agree to an all-inclusive fee, offer a reasonable per diem to cover everything in addition to airfare and hotel room. Typically a per diem will cover meals, tips, and ground transfers.

  5. Clearly state in your contract exactly what expenses you will cover so that there is no post-conference confusion over miscellaneous expenses

Ruth Levine is founder and vice president of marketing at Speak Inc. Speakers Bureau, (858) 457-9880,


Speaker Searches on the Web

Search, preview, select — and never leave your desk.

Using the Web for speaker searches can save you lots of time and phone calls. Here's how:

  1. Many speakers bureaus' Web sites have user-friendly search engines that will let you quickly come up with a list of speakers that match your meeting theme, topic, and budget. You can even search for speakers who live close to your meeting site, or find out who is already booked near your site around your meeting dates.

  2. If you have a particular speaker in mind, it's worth checking out his/her Web site for the following information:

    • full-length biographies
    • real or streaming audio or video clips
    • a schedule of upcoming live preview opportunities
    • pre-program questionnaires
    • program titles
    • audiovisual requirements
    • testimonials
    • availability info
    • contact info
  3. Once you have your short list of speakers, continue your online search by e-mailing the bureau or speaker's office to request full-length demo tapes. (Full-length audio and video tapes are not yet readily available online because of bandwidth limitations and storage complexities.) You may also request a telephone interview with one or more bureau reps, speaker reps, or even with the speakers themselves to ask specific questions.

  4. Once you have selected a speaker, most bureau Web sites allow you to book online. Many also post or e-mail instructions on how to make an offer to a speaker.

  5. When the offer is accepted, you will be asked to complete a series of booking questions so that a digital contract and invoice can be e-mailed to you, along with the promotional materials you will need to publicize your speaker and to introduce him or her properly on stage.

You still might have to make a few phone calls, but the Web can do a lot of the work for you when you need to find a speaker.

Ruth Levine,
Speak Inc.
Speakers Bureau,
(858) 457-9880

WEB SITES Worth Visiting

Here are some of the speakers bureaus worth checking out online. Most offer searchable databases of the speakers they represent as well as other news and information about how to find the right speaker for your event:
The International Association of Speakers Bureaus is a worldwide trade association that is to the speakers industry what MPI is to meeting professionals. You can also use the association's resources to find a speaker.


Should you put a speaker “on hold?”

  • “Holds” allow you the flexibility to make your decision without the obligation of signing a contract or paying a deposit. Unlike contracted dates, holds are not binding until a speaker accepts your offer and you enter a contract.

  • To protect themselves against holds that fall through, speakers typically accept up to five holds for the same date. The holds are given priority based on the order in which the speaker receives them.

  • The best way to book a speaker who has multiple holds ahead of you? Make your decision ASAP.

Source: Ruth Levine, Speak Inc. Speakers Bureau, (858) 457-9880,