10 Tips on Booking an Expert Speaker for Your Event

Raleigh Addington
Raleigh Addington
editor at Chartwell Speakers

Finding the right speaker is one of the most important elements when putting on a conference or leadership development event. Selecting the right speakers can be a daunting task as there is so much variety in terms of topics, expertise, experience and price of speakers. Using a speaker bureau can help. In order to avoid some of the common pitfalls here are my top 10 tips on booking the right speaker and ensuring you get the best for your firm and audience.

1. Understand your Audience
Try to fully understand the needs of the attendees and what they want to take away from it. Does your event require that the audience leave with specific or technical information? Some audiences are looking for an academic-type speaker whereas others look for a lighter, after-dinner speaker with a humorous message – or an inspirational speaker. Consider whether your event would benefit most from a celebrity, an expert in the field, a popular sports personality, a best-selling author or a professional speaker who has a thorough knowledge of the appropriate topic?

2. Plan your event carefully
It’s not always possible, but try to allow plenty of time ahead of booking your speaker. Invariably the best speakers can get booked up months (even years) in advance so it is worth choosing early. Establish a budget with your colleagues and identify a time slot within the event schedule. When you have booked a speaker you should discuss with her/him the precise length of talk as your speaker will know from experience what works best.

3. Profile or Substance?
You may need a famous personality to attract an audience but it’s worth remembering that although a speaker’s expertise and name in a given field may get the punters in, it does not always guarantee an inspiring presentation. A celebrity will invariably be more expensive than a lesser-known expert in a particular field.

4. Do your homework
Personal referrals are a great way to narrow your search so ask colleagues and contacts for recommendations. Go online and look for biographies, testimonials and videos of their presentations, preferably before a live audience. YouTube and TED are great places to start your research. Getting ideas of how people have structured talks in the past provides a great template for your event.

5. Enlist a Speaker Bureau
Speaker Bureaus are experts at booking speakers, and have the know-how to locate and book speakers according to your specifications and needs. It’s worth reaching out to one or two firms to get their grasp on your brief. Ask them to put together a Costed Proposal of say 10 – 20 suggestions. Be aware that some agents will want to promote the speakers they represent exclusively rather than taking a broad approach.

6. Get the Contract Right
You should have a contract that clearly outlines what is expected from both you and the speaker. Consider travel arrangements, accommodation and meals, fees, reimbursements and payment terms, whether you want the speaker to attend lunch/dinner after the talk, audio or videotaping of the presentation, audio/visual requirements for the presentation, media interviews and the cancellation policies on both sides. A speaker bureau will work on this for you but it’s CRUCIAL that everything is in this contract so all expectations are met.

7. Brief the Speaker
Make sure you arrange one or two briefing calls with your speaker. The relevant speaker bureau will be able to arrange this. Share information about your company. This will help the speaker become familiar with your business, and will help the speaker tailor his or her presentation to your audience. On the briefing call give the speaker a clear outline of what you expect and be specific about the size and demographics of your audience. Let the speaker know in advance about other speakers on the schedule so the speaker can build on what other experts have said, rather than duplicate.

8. Know what to expect and maximise the value from your speaker
Booking a speaker may feel expensive, but remember that you are not only paying for the time the speaker is on the platform but also for the hours spent researching, preparing and tailoring the presentation. Take advantage of their association with your company by using their material in your literature and sharing video footage across the firm.

9. Timings
Try to keep your event on schedule. Although most speakers will be able to adapt to your event, keeping your event running to time will allow your audience to get the full impact of the schedule you have created for them. Your speaker should be able to provide you with a good introduction for themselves and their topic. If someone else is introducing the speaker her/his introduction should be short, energizing and create positive expectations.

10. After the Event
You should ask the attendees to complete evaluations on the speaker and presentation. This will allow you to gauge your results and plan for future events. You should share copies of the evaluations to your speaker and the speaker bureau you used as this helps them improve for the future.

Please contact me with any questions about your event.
Raleigh Addington, Managing Director (Asia Pacific)