1) Don’t skimp when you search. Look for the following information about your speaker to make the most informed decision:
- full-length biographies
- real or streaming audio or video clips
- a schedule of upcoming live preview opportunities
- program titles
- audiovisual requirements
- testimonials and references to contact
2) Don’t assume you have plenty of time. Start looking for a speaker as soon as you finalize your meeting date. Many speakers book engagements up to a year in advance.
3) Check out www.igab.org. The International Association of Speakers Bureaus is a worldwide trade association that is to the speakers industry what Meeting Professionals International is to meeting professionals, with many resources to help you find a speaker.
4) Don’t make assumptions. Think that because your incentive meeting is on a cruise and you will provide an all-expenses-paid trip for the speaker, he or she will reduce the honorarium? In this economy, speakers cannot afford to take themselves out of the circuit for a week. Think the speaker will reduce his fee significantly since you are pre-purchasing 300 of her books as gifts for your attendees? You will get a bulk discount on the books, but book sales are often a money-maker for the publisher only, with little going to the speaker directly.
5) Network with your peers. Ask them about their speaker experiences. Who stands out as the best speaker they’ve ever had? Why? Who stands out as the worst speaker? Here are some other questions to ask references about specific speakers:
- 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?
6) Start at the end. Begin a speaker search by determining the outcome you want. Outline what is most important to you. Is it the speaker's name appeal? The message? Both? Some other questions to ask:
- Which department is hosting the meeting?
- What is the overall purpose of the meeting?
- What is the strategic message you're trying to get across in the meeting?
- How will the meeting be structured to communicate this message?
- What is the main purpose of hiring a speaker? (e.g., to lighten the mood, act as an emcee controlling session flow, pump up a sales force, or some other objective or combination of objectives)?
7) Consider the audience. How large will the audience be? What positions do attendees hold in the company and which divisions do they represent? Consider their educational background, age range, and the male/female ratio. 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.
8) Get creative about cutting costs. Ask your speaker to fly coach before you make a firm offer. Try to piggyback with another group that has your speaker booked in the same meeting city. Book a speaker who is based in your meeting destination. Propose an all-inclusive fee prior to going towith your speaker so that you have a predetermined cap on expenses. To avoid post-conference confusion over miscellaneous expenses, clearly state in your contract exactly what expenses you will cover.
9) Think of your relationship with your speaker as a partnership. Hold a pre-conference call with the speaker. Be honest about everything that is going on with your company. The more you can share, the better. Many times a speaker will say, “How else can I help you have a great conference?”
10) Extend the life of the speaking engagement. When you book a keynote, ask if he or she will attend a VIP breakfast as well, for some back-and-forth discussion about the issues of the day. Consider also using him for a speech before dinner, a point-counterpoint, a “conversation with” format, or as a moderator leading a panel of experts. How about setting up a wiki before the meeting and having attendees discuss topics with the speaker in advance? Or having him hold a webinar one month after the conference, to be sure the messages “stick” with attendees?