A speaker can make or break your event, so selecting the right person requires careful consideration. Tony D'Amelio, executive vice president of the Washington Speakers Bureau, shares tips for choosing and managing speakers.

Making Your Decision

  • Start at the End

    Begin by determining the outcome you want. Outline what is most important to you. Is it the speaker's name appeal? The message? Both?

  • Consider the Crowd

    Find out if the audience will be primarily international or U.S.-based, as political issues and humor may be received differently. Explore what distractions might come up.

  • Break out of the Routine

    A meal followed by the speaker is ordinary. That can be deadly. Instead, consider having a speech before dinner, a point-counterpoint, a “conversation with” format, or a moderator leading a panel of experts.

  • Know What You're Getting Into

    Talk with others to find out which speakers they have seen in person. Get testimonials and references, and talk with the speaker yourself. Don't assume that a big name can take on any role-moderator, motivator, etc.

  • Prevent Surprises

    Ask to see the contract and rider (if any) before you decide to go forward.

Once You Have Decided

  • Read the Completed Contract/Addendum

    Check the date and make sure that everything is correct. Don't assume that time/detail changes are OK. Don't assume that it is fine to videotape the speech; how the video will be used is critical.

  • Talk It Out

    Discuss the speech with the speaker or his or her assistant and provide written information.

At the Event

  • Assign a Designated Contact for the Speaker

    Make the speaker feel welcome and wanted. Escort the speaker, but don't be intrusive. Offer reminders on time, meeting place, and speech length. Give the speaker a once-over before he or she goes on stage to make sure that everything is in place.

  • Do a Sound Check

    Test all AV equipment before the event begins. If there is a sound problem, stop the speaker and fix it right away.

  • Manage the Meal

    The biggest gripe from speakers is having to speak during waiter service. Make sure that the meal is over before the speaker starts.

  • Stay on Schedule

    The worst thing that can happen is having to tell a speaker to cut the speech short.

  • Guarantee Q&A.

    Plant a question or two to get the ball rolling.