Matchmaking: How to find the right speaker for your event

The right keynote speaker commands attention, but the wrong one sets a negative tone for an entire event. In the article, “Four tips for choosing the right speaker for your event,” Caroline Eimerman writes, “Even a well-staged business event can fail if the featured speakers do not deliver the goods.”

Who you hire to speak at a corporate event is critical, but equally essential is staying within the confines of your budget. Fortunately, there are a wealth of dynamic and engaging speakers with messages to fit your unique needs. Best of all, many of these speakers charge very little, if anything, for their talks.

Booking a speaker is the easy part, however. There are other considerations and steps to take before booking a presenter for your event.

  • Carefully consider the event itself. What is its purpose? Answering this question helps set a theme for the event, which in turn helps you select a speaker who fits the theme.
  • Know your audience. What are their informational needs? What value might they seek from a speaker? Most speakers require information about your audience and the event theme to tailor their talks to your unique needs. Eimerman reports knowing an audience’s demographics aids in booking a speaker that fits your group. “Remember, an edgy young maverick may not necessarily appeal to a group of conservative upper management types, and vice versa,” she writes.
  • Set your budget. Contrary to popular belief, speakers don’t always jump at the opportunity to speak just for the exposure. Seasoned speakers won’t think twice about saying no. Develop a budget that covers lodging and meals, and a stipend for the speaker’s services.
  • Determine the kind of speaker you seek. Are you looking for a subject matter expert, inspirational speaker or a comedian? Do you want your speaker to inform the audience, inspire them or make them laugh? Maybe you want all the above. This is critical to know as you begin researching potential speakers.
  • Check the speaker’s availability. Knowing that a speaker is available on the date you need them is only part of the consideration. You also must factor in travel time. If it takes a full day to fly to your event, speaking there will take them more than one day. If they’re not free the day prior and the day after, they may be unable to speak at your event.
  • Book far in advance. Though many speakers’ bureaus promise to line up a speaker within weeks, booking four to six months assures you get your first pick.
  • Know where to find them. Reach out to speakers’ bureaus at colleges or universities. Contact booking agents for top keynote speakers. Even Toastmasters in your area is a good resource for a keynote speaker. In most cases, the speakers’ bureau covers the cost of travel, while your company may incur the following expenses: talk staffing or preparation costs, event space fees, audiovisual equipment costs, talk marketing and promotion. Requesting a speaker is simple. Most sites simply ask you to email or call and their staff will guide you through the process.
  • Fully vet your short list of speakers. The work doesn’t stop once you identify two or three possible speakers. That’s when the fun really beings. It’s important to contact your candidates and speak with them on the phone before signing a contract. In addition, review their demo videos. However, keep in mind, just as a trailer to a movie might make a movie look fantastic, when it’s not, speaker videos can do the same. A short well-produced video is designed to cast a speaker in a positive light. They are effective tools to help you define your short list of possible speakers, but a follow up phone call will help determine if a speaker fits your needs. Request several letters of recommendation from each speaker on your short list and call them to learn more about their experiences.

Doing these things may create a handful of extra work. But in the long run you’ll hire a keynote speaker who meets the needs of your audience and sets the tone for a successful event to follow.

Are you headed to the podium?

Perhaps, hiring a speaker isn’t necessary, and you find yourself the one headed to the podium. A good speech needs to grab an audience’s attention from the beginning, with a staggering statistic, a humorous story, a compelling question, or a quote to draw people in. It also needs great content that keeps the audience engaged. You need to show the audience how the information impacts them and why they need to care about it. While anyone can write a speech, it takes someone who has given them and a writer who knows how to drive a message home to develop a good one.

I’m not always interviewing subjects; often I find myself on the other side of the microphone. Though this is most definitely not my favorite place to stand (a comfy chair in the audience is preferred), I have written speeches for myself and others, and I am more than willing to craft the words for your next corporate speech or presentation.


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