Everything you ever wanted to know about choosing the best speaker for your meeting or special event

Our readers recommend their favorite speakers, and we provide tips on speaker expenses, answer frequently asked questions, provide some useful Web sites, troubleshoot solutions, and more.

Art Berg
CSP, CPAE, Speaker Hall of Fame

“Art spoke to a group of 4,000 people for us; he seemed to touch every single one of them emotionally. He did tons of research on our company first — the talk was very customized. He is amazing (very funny) and everything he said was tangible and applicable. Art will definitely be asked to come back.”

Speaker's Bureau: Republic Speaker's Bureau
Fee: $13,000 plus travel
Contact: Art Berg, Invictus Communications Inc.
(800) ART-BERG (278-2374)
Fax: (801) 763-7771
Reader: Mary Wong, Director of Community Relations, Office Depot

Ken Blanchard, PhD

“Ken is all about service!”
Fee: $30,001-$50,000
Contact: Leading Authorities Inc.
Fax: (202) 783-0301
Reader: Tom Counts, Director of Sales & Marketing, Jackson Marketing Group

Michael Brandwein

“I find too many motivational speakers to be what I call Stepford Speakers … . They say the same things time after time without adapting the message to the audience. Michael is different; he motivates people to do better work, to provide better service, and to communicate effectively with others.”

Fee: $6,500
Contact: (847) 940-9820
Fax: (847) 940-9829
Reader: Joan Eisenstodt, President, Eisenstodt Associates, LLC

Frank Candy
President, American Speakers Bureau

“Frank Candy is as good as they come! He speaks for both the associations I'm affiliated with, and his talk is never ‘canned.’ He spends a lot of time beforehand finding out what each particular audience wants, and he absolutely zeroes in on our needs. The audience loves him because he brings humor to his talks.”

“Jamie Clarke was just incredible … both inspirational and motivational. He made us think, laugh, and cry!”
— Amy Armstrong, Meeting & Event Manager, Fisher Scientific

Speaker's Bureau: American Speaker's Bureau
Fee: from $6,000 national to $11,000 international
Contact: (407) 826-4248
Fax: (407) 629-7752

Jamie Clarke

“We used him in January … ; you cannot imagine the positive feedback! He received a standing ovation, and everyone has been bugging me for his tape! He was just incredible … both inspirational and motivational. An incredibly powerful speech. He made us think, laugh, and cry! Wow!”

Fee: $18,000
Contact: (403) 230-2760, ext. 222
Fax: (403) 230-2773
Reader: Amy Armstrong, Meeting & Event Manager Fisher Scientific

Tom DeFrank,
Washington Bureau Chief, New York Daily News

We've hired Tom to give a ‘Washington Update’ at our annual meeting every election year for the past three elections. He knows all the presidents, he tells interesting stories, and he has an insider's view of politics that people find compelling.”

Fee: $6,500
Contact: Washington Speaker's Bureau
(703) 684-0555

Peter deLisser
President, Responsible Communications

“Peter spoke at our executive-level sabbatical, a daylong think tank. He was interactive; he helped us create synergies and inspired our teamwork efforts.”

Fee: $7,000 to $10,000
Contact: (212) 551-3543
Fax: (845) 359-8328
Reader: Diane Votteler, Director of Human Resources, McNaughton Apparel Group

Stephen Douglas, PhD

“Stephen Douglas is a psychologist who entertains an audience through storytelling and makes his points very purposely. I can remember his speech from 10 years ago! We've hired him three times since, and we'll do so again.”

Fee: $2,000-$3,000
Contact: Speakers Unlimited
(614) 864-3703
Fax: (614) 864-3876

Marc Goloven,
Senior Regional Economist, JP Morgan

“Marc was one of several speakers I used over a three-day period at the annual meeting last October. He wasn't even the keynote speaker — but he was outstanding because of his use of dry humor and entertaining anecdotes. Marc presented his points in a way that was definitely not dull! He was enthusiastic and humorous and he had people just rolling. He is definitely not your typical actuary.”

Fee: None
Contact: Jenny Garrido at JP Morgan, New York
(212) 899-1465
Fax: (212) 899-2884
Reader: Rodney Pierce, Stafford Savings Bank, Stafford Spring, Conn.

Amanda Gore
CEO, Amanda Gore International

“The best motivational speaker I have witnessed to date is Amanda Gore, one of Australia's most popular professional speakers. She makes you laugh and forget all your worries. She delivers serious messages about communication, performance, relationships, teams, and health issues, just to name a few! It was the first time I have ever witnessed a speaker with such drive, compassion, and passion who engages serious (sometimes too serious!) adults in real emotions and good communications.”

“It was the first time I witnessed a speaker … who engages serious … adults in real emotions and good communications.”
— Michele C. Wierzgac, CMM, CEO & President, Michele & Co.

Fee: $9,000-$11,000 plus travel from Dallas
Contact: Amanda Gore, International (Dallas)
(214) 752-4640
Fax: (214) 752-7401
Reader: Michele C. Wierzgac, CMM, CEO & President, Michele & Co.

Keith Harrell
Author, Attitude is Everything: A Tune-Up to Enhance Your Life

“When we use industry-related speakers, it's impossible to gauge the message to each person's experience level. With motivational speakers, often people leave with a ho-hum, ‘seen-it-all’ look on their faces. But I heard people reference Keith's keynote throughout the meeting. It made one member decide to resign from her job and make a complete 180-degree change in her life!”

Fee: $15,000
Contact: Speak Inc.
(800) 677-3324

Dale Henry, PhD

“Dr. Henry is personal, poignant, funny, caring, and absolutely captivating. He spoke many times for the Society of Government Meeting Professionals at our national annual educational conference and for workshops and seminars. He is simply splendid — he makes you feel wonderful for months after you have heard him speak. Absolutely the best I've used in 15 years!”

Fee: $3,750 to 5,000
Contact: Program Resources
(502) 339-1653
Fax: (502) 339-8085
Reader: Ralph W. Menzel, CMP, owner, qualitymeetings.com

Patrick Howard,
Internet Business Manager, Genuity Solutions Inc.

“Patrick makes learning even technical subjects interesting and fun because of his energy and enthusiasm. He's dynamic and outspoken, and he breaks down high-tech components into easy-to-understand concepts.”

Fee: $1,000 to $5,000
Contact: (407) 236-9744
Reader: Damon Cox, President, Technology Partners

Richard Thieme

“Richard speaks on the subject of technology; I haven't seen any other speaker who could blend that subject with spirituality — but he does. There is no company that technology hasn't touched, so he is qualified to speak on a myriad of subjects. Richard puts a positive spin on topics that are grossly and negatively over-sensationalized, and he touches the widest demographic of any speaker I've ever seen — from top-level government security experts to 18-year-old wannabe computer hackers.”

Fee: $7,000
Contact: ThiemeWorks
(888) 689-9100
Fax: (414) 351-5779
Reader: Tina Greene, President, Security Travel

Jeff Tobe
CSP, Primary Colorer

“Jeff's keynote message on creatively managing change — ‘coloring outside the lines’ — was delivered to our meeting so creatively. His business cards have crayons on them, and he writes in crayon a lot. He's really inspired creative team work.”

“Clearly state in your contract exactly what expenses you will cover so that there is no confusion over miscellaneous expenses.”
— Ruth Levine, Speak Inc., Speakers Bureau

Fee: $6,500-$8,500
Contact: (800) 875-7106
Reader: Dick Thornburg, Vice President, Custom Printed Forms


Speaker fees do not include travel expenses.

Do you have speakers you would like to recommend?

Send us an e-mail at bscofidio@intertec.com, and we'll post the recommendations on our Web site, www.meetingsnet.com.

Ask the Right Questions

Speaker references are critical, but it's not enough to call a former client and ask, “Was he any good?” You need to know the goals for your program and to ask specific questions about the speaker's ability to meet those goals. For example, “Can he talk about technological trends?” should get a different answer from “Can he talk to CEOs about technological trends?” or “Can he talk to chip designers about technology trends?” Here are some other questions to ask references; these will help you determine if a speaker will be a good fit for your group:

  • Was the talk customized? Were the things you discussed about your organization integrated into the talk?

  • Was the speaker available for questions, and how well did he or she handle them?

  • How up-to-date was the speaker's information?

  • Were there logistical problems?

  • Was the speaker difficult to work with? Did he or she have any special requirements that were not communicated up front?

Source: David Lavin, president of The Lavin Agency, a speakers agency with offices in Boston, Toronto, and Vancouver. Contact him at (800) 265-4870, ext. 279, or visit www.thelavinagency.com.

Where to Look on the Web

Here's a sampling of online speaker resources. For a comprehensive agency listing, visit the International Association of Speakers Bureaus at www.iasbweb.org.

Should You Put a Speaker on Hold?

Q: When I put a hold on a speaker, am I assured of getting that speaker for my event?

A: Speaker 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 into a contract. For protection against holds that fall through, speakers typically accept up to five holds for the same date, and the holds are given priority based on the order in which they are received. First holds are given the first right of refusal (24 hours from the next business day) when a second hold makes a firm offer for the same date. A third hold on the same date would automatically lose the date if the speaker accepts an offer from his first or second hold. Likewise, if a third hold makes a firm offer, then the first hold is given the first 24-hour right of refusal, and if the first hold declines, then the second hold is given the next 24-hour first right of refusal. The best way to book a speaker who has multiple holds ahead of you is to make your decision ASAP.

Source: Ruth Levine at Speak Inc. Speakers Bureau, www.speakinc.com

Help for the Occasional Speech

Some CEOs are naturals on stage. Most aren't. The Coleman Center, a Manhattan meeting venue, has published a brief, useful guide, “Capture and Captivate Your Audience,” designed to improve the skill of the occasional speaker. The guide covers style, content, and visual aids. Among the tips:

  • Change your tone of voice throughout your talk. Emphasize certain passages by raising or lowering your voice. Pause occasionally. Look up at your audience — gaze directly at individual audience members occasionally.

  • Put emotion into your speaking style. Consider voice or acting lessons.

  • A business rises or falls depending upon the quality and service delivered to its customers. Your customers are the audience you're addressing. Serve them well.

For a free copy of the guide, contact The Coleman Center at (212) 541-4600, or send an e-mail to phyllisgreen@colemancenter.com.

Six Ways to Cut Speaker Expenses

  1. Ask your speaker to fly coach before you make a firm offer. 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.

  3. Book a speaker based in your meeting destination.

  4. Propose an all-inclusive fee so that you have a predetermined cap on expenses.

  5. 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.

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

Source: Ruth Levine, Speak Inc. Speakers Bureau, www.speakinc.com