Don’t Book Your Next Speaker Until You Hear This

Corporate events thrive on the strength of their speakers. Whether it’s a keynote address, a panel discussion, or an emcee, the right speaker can elevate an event from good to unforgettable. However, before you rush to book the first speaker you find, it’s crucial to understand what matters most to speakers and how to navigate the process effectively.

Last month at Catersource & The Special Event in Austin, I presented a session titled above and offered tips and best practices around the speaker booking process. To begin, I started with what matters most to speakers.

What Matters Most to Speakers

When considering speaking engagements, speakers who participated our the 2024 Speaking Industry Survey told us they prioritize several factors:

  1. Relevance of topic: Speakers prioritize topics that align with their expertise. They want to feel confident in delivering a compelling presentation and showcasing their authority in the subject matter.
  2. Pays their ideal fee: Speakers expect to receive at or close to their standard fee. Fair compensation acknowledges their value and ensures a mutually beneficial arrangement.
  3. Alignment with values: Speakers consider the values and causes championed by the event or organization. This reflects a growing trend towards collaboration with like-minded entities.

Beyond these primary considerations, speakers also weigh factors such as audience reach, work-life balance, ease of engagement, location, and the reputation of the sponsoring organization.

Booking Options: Bureau or DIY?

When it comes to booking speakers, event planners have two primary options: using a bureau or handling it themselves.

Some of the pros for using a bureau include: 

  • Getting access to a wide range of speakers in one place.
  • Gaining insight into past performance.
  • Experienced logistical support.
  • Increased negotiating power for favorable pricing.

DIY advantages include:

  • Direct access to speakers.
  • It is a manageable task if you have the time to support it.
  • More control over the booking process.

Ultimately, the decision often comes down to time — whether or not you have the time to manage this yourself with the team you’ve assembled.

Identifying the Right Speaker

To find the perfect speaker for your event, start with these 4 steps:

  1. Define Your Goals: Clearly outline the objectives of the event.
  2. Research With Goals in Mind: Explore speakers who align with your theme and budget.
  3. Make a Shortlist: Narrow down potential speakers based on relevance, audience match, and value alignment.
  4. Assess Remaining Speakers: Consider past experiences, expertise, and potential impact on attendance.

If any speakers remaining at the end of these 4 steps do not allow you to achieve the goals you’ve set in the first step, remove them from the list.

Negotiating and Positioning Offers

When extending offers to speakers, here are some final tips to remember:

  • Avoid making simultaneous offers for the same speaking opportunity. If time is of the essence, set a reasonable deadline to the first offer you make so that you can move on quickly to the next if needed. 
  • Communicate clearly and promptly. Each year in our Speaking Industry Benchmark Report, we ask speakers the question: what challenges do you have working with event organizers.  Each year, the majority have no issues at all. Of the issues that do come up, most are around communication. 
  • Protect your interests in the transaction. Ensure contracts cover essential details like scope, compensation, intellectual property rights, cancellation policies, force majeure clauses, and indemnification. And, having representation on the event sponsor’s side is strongly encouraged.

Booking the right speaker for your corporate event involves careful consideration and strategic planning. By understanding what matters most to speakers, exploring booking options, conducting thorough research, and negotiating effectively, event planners can secure speakers who elevate their events and deliver unforgettable experiences.

Remember, communication is key throughout the process. By fostering positive relationships and clear expectations, both speakers and event organizers can ensure successful collaborations that benefit all parties involved.

So, before you book your next speaker, take the time to understand their needs and preferences, and ensure your event aligns with their expectations. Your attendees will thank you for it.

Jennifer Best: Jennifer Best is the Head of Marketing for All American Entertainment. Jen has been featured in print and digital publications, including, on digital marketing trending topics. She is a former SBA award-winning entrepreneur for her digital marketing work with small businesses. When she's not geeking out on Google Analytics and marketing automation, you'll find Jen cooking for her growing family or enjoying a great book.
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