Speakers have been credited with increasing meeting attendance, improving meeting content, and turning so-so events into memorable experiences. With thousands of professional speakers on the marketplace, finding the perfect speaker—one who fits your budget, is available, and is approved by your internal clients—can be an enormous challenge. Consider the following tips when working with speakers:
1. Get everyone on the same page. Confirm the objective of the meeting or event, its size and scope, and the makeup of your audience. This is a critical foundation to set.
2. Consider the culture of your organization. Share any particular concerns with your speaker, providing a clear understanding of the appropriate environment of your organization. Be sure to discuss your objectives.
3. Take a hard look at your budget. Celebrity speakers carry celebrity-caliber fees (whether or not these celebrities are great speakers, by the way). Be sure you have the appropriate budget set aside for the speaker who will shine at your event.
4. Think beyond the keynote. Speakers can play countless roles at an event, such as hosting a breakout session, acting as event emcee, or leading a Q&A session.
5. Bring in the experts. Depending on the nature of your meeting, an industry expert may be the best speaker you could hire. These experts have industry-specific experience and can provide meaningful insight into trends, issues, and developments.
6. Use extreme caution online. It is easy to get overwhelmed and frustrated trying to conduct speaker research entirely online. Most speakers have their own glowing Web sites and many professional speakers bureaus have Web sites that tout their most expensive speakers. Look for objective partners and resources who keep the unique purpose of your meeting at the focus of any speaker search.
7. Don’t go it alone. You can benefit greatly from the experience and expertise of a qualified professional speakers bureau. The bureau should be able to consult with you and provide a handful of on-the-mark speakers that meet your specific criteria, including your budget requirements. Focus on these recommendations first, and take the time to review their bios and materials, watch any videos (keeping in mind that videos represent only one short aspect of a speaker), and even speak directly with them on the phone. Narrow your choice to two or three, confirm their availability and affordability, and then present the options to your internal clients for a final decision.
8. Maximize your speaker. Once your is in place, your speaker (and speakers bureau) should be able to brainstorm ways to leverage this investment. Many speakers will help with pre-event publicity through interviews, distributing materials, etc. To add more value for attendees, many speakers may consider longer speeches, Q&A sessions, customized “leave behinds,” follow-up phone calls or materials, and more.
9. Go by the book. Many speakers are also authors and may be willing to sign books, give away advanced copies of new books, or hand out book-related materials. They may make audio downloads available for a short time before and after a speech, or they may have other incentives that are appropriate for your audience.
10. Bulk shopping? If your meeting spans several days, there may be concurrent sessions that are appropriate for the speaker. Having one person stay on for three or four days can, in the long run, be more economical than flying in different speakers for each session.
If you decide to work with a speakers bureau, check their credentials as carefully as you would a professional speaker to try to get a sense of their values and ethics. The better bureaus have a seasoned staff, are affiliated with professional organizations such as the International Association of Speakers Bureaus and Meeting Professionals International, and typically place the client before the speaker.
Diane Goodman, CMP, is president and founder of The Goodman Speakers Bureau, based in Windsor, Conn. For more information, visit goodmanspeakersbureau.com.