Thousands of keynote speakers crowd the marketplace. Every time the economy takes a hit, someone believes they have a great story to tell—and should be paid to tell it.  Every person has a story, but not every person has the ability to tell that story and make it compelling. In the centuries before modern technology, values, folklore and customs were passed down from one generation to the next by mouth, but today, only a few people are natural, experienced storytellers. Meeting planners sift through an overwhelming amount of material to find great speakers. Here are 5 tips for finding the right speaker for your meeting’s agenda.

Hiring a Great Speaker Tip 1: Work with a Speaker’s Bureau

Good speaker’s bureaus knows their speakers’ abilities and reputations, and many bureaus have access to thousands of speakers—though some know their products better than others. Be aware that some bureaus have exclusive speakers to whom they are contractually obligated to provide a minimum income. They push those exclusives first and will look further down their lists only if the “top picks” aren’t suitable.  Be specific about what your needs are, and you can save hours of viewing demos and material.

Hiring a Great Speaker Tip 2: Know Your Budget

Speakers charge a wide range of fees. Be clear about the vision and scale of your meeting; speakers are out there to suit every pocketbook, but you won’t find a champagne speaker on a beer budget. But the cost of your keynote speaker as a single line item in your total event budget—which includes air fares, a block of hotel rooms, and meals—is a small percentage. Consider upgrading your speaker to a concierge floor to have unlimited access to refreshments and light snacks. That small cost savings can cut down considerably on restaurant charges.

Hiring a Great Speaker Tip 3: The “Background Check”

When you receive materials from a speaker you have never heard before, save time with “passive screenings.” While doing your daily work, stream the video of your prospective speakers in the background. The tone of a speaker, the pace, the energy will become evident (or not). A great speaker will steal your attention away from your other tasks and will therefore hold the attention of your attendees.

Hiring a Great Speaker Tip 4: The Letter

When you have compiled a short list of speakers, send each one information about your meeting and the people they will be presenting to. Ask each speaker to write a one-page overview of why they will be a fit for your event. An unfortunate number of speakers will take themselves out of the running by not responding at all. A speaker who is too busy to write a letter is probably not going to engage your attendees with any enthusiasm. Someone sincere about presenting to your group will submit a compelling, timely, document that clarifies what they will bring to your meeting. Once you have identified speakers at the top of your list, follow up with a phone call to discuss your event in more detail. A phone call will tell you whether this is the right speaker, and you can discuss AV needs and other meeting logistics well in advance. And later, during the content briefing call with the speaker and an executive, you will not spend valuable time discussing technical details.

Hiring a Great Speaker Tip 5: Ask Not What You Can Do for Your Speaker…

Hire a speaker, not only for their content and delivery on the platform, but for the extraordinary experience that speaker will create for your attendees. Great speakers make it a point to know their audiences  through in-depth research; they arrive prepared to deliver a relevant and engaging message. When they leave the platform, excellent speakers stick around for book signings, photos with the attendees, and Q & A sessions. Professional speakers make themselves available for an appropriate amount of time after the keynote instead of rushing off to their room or to the airport. Attendees want that personal time with an inspiring speaker. A speaker who truly motivates and inspires understands that the job involves ensuring that meeting attendees feel the speech is about them.

Choose the speaker for your next meeting carefully and critically. The right speaker will make your meeting empowering and successful.


5 Tips for Hiring a Great Speaker — 5 Comments

  1. It was really helpful when you said to have the speaker have unlimited access to refreshments and light snacks. My husband is planning a company event that is coming up in a couple of weeks, and he wants to make sure that he can find the right keynote speaker for it. I’ll make sure to pass this information along to him so that he can know what to look for when searching for a keynote speaker for his event.

  2. I liked that you pointed out that you should run a background check on any speaker you are looking to hire. Also, it does seem like a good idea to know if the person actually has done or does what they say. That just seems like a good way of protecting yourself when you are looking for a speaker to teach at a conference.

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