We have seen it all. Dawn and I have been event planners as well as professional keynote speakers for the past 25 years. Therefore, we have a unique perspective on hiring a speaker for an event. Our  background in this industry has given us insight into the concerns of the event planner. We know what keeps them up at night. In addition, we can identify with the keynote speaker who is expected to deliver specific results while walking, somewhat blindly, into a foreign environment. 

There are many advantages to hiring a professional keynote speaker.

Hiring a speaker who is knowledgeable and experienced in your industry is a quick way to boost the credibility of your event. In addition, if you are planning an event that is open to the public, it expands your reach to a wider demographic. In the case of community events, the speaker will be promoting this engagement through their own followers and social media channels. This cross-promotion is mutually beneficial for increasing ticket sales and brand expansion.

However, hiring a speaker for an event can be daunting. As an event planner, it’s your job to delight your client with the overall impact of the event. This will go a long way ensuring repeat business and quality referrals. Your selection of a keynote speaker plays an essential roll in creating WOW factor.

Here are a few tips for hiring a speaker for an event:

hiring a speaker for an event1. What is the client trying to accomplish with the event?

 Corporate Conventions: Corporations bring their people together for many reasons.  These include strategy facilitation, leadership development, performance management, skill based training, employee success recognition and rewards. Large, national events usually contain many of these elements. Therefore, the client may have several goals in mind when assessing the success of this event.

Community Events: These events and seminars cover a wide variety of topics and goals.

If you want to create a great customer experience, answer the following question:

Is the client looking for long term results from the speaker(s) or simply to entertain their audience?

It’s been our experience that many meeting planners miss the significance of this question when hiring a speaker for an event. Yet, the answer determines the type of speaker to hire.

Many clients are looking for long term results. They expect some sort of change in the behavior of  the participants as a direct result of the presentation. For instance, many companies hire us to speak at an event with the sole purpose of training their team for increasing sales. These results will be measured in the months following our presentation. Conversely, the client may merely be looking to keep the audience engaged or to add to the social enjoyment of the event. These results are short term oriented.  Their main objective is to WOW the audience during the event.

If your client is looking to gain a long term impact on their audience:

However, some events require a speaker that dazzles hearers but doesn’t distract from the intent of the meeting. For instance, if this a ‘facts and figures’ event containing a majority of important, yet ‘dry’ information, consider providing something lighter in contrast.

  • A Motivational Speaker or
  • Entertainer

Use these presentations to ‘fill in’ between informational sessions to re-energize the audience.

For events that are open to the public where ticket sales are your clients focus, you may need to consider someone Famous.

Perhaps a best selling author, media personality, local hero, etc. would help publicize the event. Be advised however, the fact that they are famous does not necessarily mean they are competent speakers who can hold the audience in rapt attention. In addition, they will probably solicit a healthy fee.

hiring a speaker for an event2. Who will be in the audience?

  • What is your audience expecting?

Is this a business event? If so, you may want a speaker who is competent to deliver facts and information. For an event that is more lighthearted and entertaining, you might be looking for someone who is humorous or interactive with their audience.

  • What is the company/community culture?

Will the speaker ‘speak your language’. Can individuals in the audience relate to the presenter personally or professionally?

  • Is attendance voluntary or required? When hiring a speaker for an event, don’t over look this item. It is very difficult for a speaker to motivate, teach or entertain individuals that have been forced to attend the event. If attendance is required, seek speakers who regularly work in this environment and know how to earn the respect of the group rather than those who are used to automatic ‘idol worship’.

Once you know what type of speaker will fit with your clients community or team, it’s time to begin your search.

hiring a speaker for an event3. What to expect from a speaker

Whether you are paying top dollar or getting a speaker for no fee, you have the right to expect certain standards from their presentation and interaction with the client and event participants.

Referrals from past clients

Your prospective keynote speakers should supply you with referrals from their past clients. Remember, every speaker you hire represents you! Although you may not have ever met them, the speaker will be involved with the event because you suggested them to the client. Therefore, in the clients mind, your reputation is linked to their behavior. Find out  from their past presentations what they were like ‘behind the curtain’ as well as their abilities in front of it.

Seek speakers that have a the mindset of a servant

You are hiring them to serve the clients needs, not feed their own over inflated egos. It is easy to recognize speakers who focus on serving the client because they:

  • Are available for conversations with client before the event.
  • Their contracts are not overly demanding. Don’t be bullied by speakers who demand anything outside their speaking fee other than travel, food and lodging in midrange hotels and restaurants.
  • Willing to travel business class rather than first class.
  • Will tweak their presentations to the clients culture.
  • Help with marketing, providing promotional videos and social media announcements before the event.
  • Call you as soon as they are on the show site. You don’t need to worry if the ‘star of the show’ has made it or missed their plane.
  • They meet with the technology crew and set up everything needed before the event begins, (not 5 minutes before they are to present on stage), to discuss microphones, power point presentation, etc.
  • Provide materials (if appropriate) for added take home value.
  • Engage with the convention, social gatherings, interacting with audience members before and after their presentation. They are not hiding in their hotel room.
  • Have a follow up strategy if requested.
  • In short, they are easy to work with.

hiring a speaker for an eventP.S. Speaker fees are negotiable

There are many methods of negotiating fees when hiring a speaker for an event.

  1. Let’s say the speaker wants $25,000 for the event and there is only $15,000 in the budget. You can compensate by offering the speaker a free vendor table. This works well with speakers who have books and other items to sell. Generally about 30% of the room will purchase something. Therefore, if 300 individuals purchase products, each with a profit margin of $20, the speaker will earn $6,000 in added compensation. Most speakers will overlook the $4,000 short fall to fill their calendar.
  2. Perhaps the speaker will not negotiate from their fee because either they don’t have materials for sale or it’s a corporate event where a tool table would not be appropriate. In this case, where you are paying the full fee for a speaker, you’re in a position to ask the him/her to perform other tasks such as being an emcee, meeting achievers for a private cocktail hour, etc.

Hiring a speaker for an event is a huge responsibility. Let’s face it, when you peruse speaker websites, they all look good. They probably smell good, too. What counts is the right fit for your client. Determine whether long or short term results are best and check out all referrals.

If you are looking for a tactical trainer in sales or performance management AND/OR a motivational speaker who will have everyone out of their seats, look no further than me, Joe Pici. I have 25 years of experience motivating, educating, and captivating audiences around the world! Call 407-947-2590.

global gurus Joe Pici has been ranked in the TOP 30 Sales trainers internationally by Global Gurus