Shelby Diltz, CMP, Director of Meetings, The Robstan Group, Kansas City, Mo.

Listen to your members — it is not just the feel-good, big-picture speakers that attendees are looking for these days. It is the nuts-and-bolts type of speakers who can address the difficult issues facing attendees who are the most welcome. This means that you must challenge the speakers to do research on the attendees' industry and make sure they adjust their presentation to fit the attendees. If the speaker just wants to present his or her “time-tested” canned presentation, move on, because there will be someone out there who will give you what you need. To that point, as the meeting planner you are your members' advocate and you should work with your speakers to make them understand the attendees' needs.

One of my favorite speakers is Kelly McDonald, who speaks on multicultural marketing. She discusses where marketing and communications are going and how it impacts your business.

Tracy Petrillo, CAE, Director of Education and Conferences, League of California Cities, Sacramento, Calif.

Our favorite way to choose speakers is to work with them directly. Whenever possible, we avoid middlemen, bureaus, and management. With tight budgets, it is essential that your organization finds out if a keynote or subject matter expert will be worth the time and/or money. When working directly with the speaker, it allows him or her to find out exactly what you need and if he or she is really a match for your event. Most speakers are very open to this approach and welcome the direct dialogue.

One of my favorite practical, yet humorous, speakers is Juliet Funt. She is the daughter of Alan Funt of “Candid Camera” fame, the original reality TV show. Her session at ASAE, “Overcommitted, Overwhelmed, and Over It” had attendees standing in every corner of the room to hear her featured session. She offers an opportunity to laugh at yourself and gives tips to improve yourself professionally and personally.

Jean Evans
Director of Conferences, MCI Dublin

Can you afford the speaker and is he or she worth the price? Will the meetings get the ROI as designated by the key performance indicators set by the meeting? What is the distance to travel and the mode of travel?

We look for charisma. Does the speaker have the ability to engage the audience and get the message across?

What is the language of the speaker versus the core language of the attendees? Will this entail interpretation and ancillary AV costs?

Can the speaker sell himself or herself to attract numbers and the right audience?

Be sure to have clear communication with speakers in relation to their style and AV requirements. Does he or she want a lapel mic or prefer to be behind a lectern?

Suzette Eaddy, CMP, Director of Conferences, National Minority Supplier Development Council Inc., New York

In working with speakers, the most important thing to keep in mind is the purpose, the objective of the meeting. What message are you trying to communicate? What are you hoping to accomplish?

Evaluate the audience and the organization's needs.

What are the demographics of the audience? What is the audience mix (age, gender, economic background, audience interests)?

Speakers should be invited based on expertise on the subject, appropriateness for the audience, and because he or she is a good speaker.

The last best speech that I remember was Tammy Erickson, who speaks on generational issues. I believe it was in 2009 at the Marriott Association Masters.