Finding the Best Speaker for Your Event

January 23, 2018

Ricardo Ortiz

Ricardo Ortiz has more than two decades of experience in the events industry with Shepard Exposition Services and currently serves as the Vice President of Sales for ShepardAV.

The right speaker can help change an average conference or event into a memorable one. Approaching your speaker selection process with a purpose can lead to increased attendance, a more inspired audience and a higher profile for the event. You might think of a well-chosen guest speaker as the exclamation point to the content provided by your executives or presenters. Plus, the right speaker with proper motivation can help attract more attendees.

Finding an Amazing, Magical Guest Speaker

But how do you find this amazing, magical guest speaker? Before you start searching YouTube, you need to do some homework. Just as you prepare for all of the content and presentations on the agenda, here are some key speaker questions you should answer first:

  1. What are your key goals and objectives for the conference or event?
  2. What are the audience’s key goals and objectives?
  3. What topics, issues or information would be most relevant and valuable to the audience?
  4. Where would a speaker fit best in the schedule?
  5. What do you want the speaker to accomplish?

Bypass this step and you are just blindly guessing that a speaker will fit your theme and goals.

Be Careful and Deliberate

Think about what you are really doing: You are entrusting an hour of your audience’s time to a stranger. The attendees’ time and attention are the most important assets you have, so be very careful and deliberate.

Speakers are like speed dating. If the audience doesn’t feel attracted, engaged and interested quickly, it gets uncomfortable and wants to leave.

Try using the same four strong, key elements we use to help you find your best speaker. Just decide what you want the audience to Feel, Think, Know and Do.

Determine the Practical Details

The last thing to do before you start your search is to determine the practical details. The most important is to establish your speaker budget. Depending on the conference or event, outside speakers can represent a big chunk of the budget. This is a key decision because it usually doesn’t work to start fishing for a speaker just to see whom you can get. Determine:

  • The speaker budget
  • How many outside speakers you need
  • If the speaker is educational, informational, inspirational or motivational
  • How long the speaker will talk
  • What is being said before and after the speaker?

Remember, you don’t want the cheapest speaker you can find. You want the most appropriate, relevant and effective speaker you can find for your budget.

Can I Do It Myself?

I guess the answer is, “it depends.” If you have the time and the experience to find possible speakers, check qualifications, review presentations and negotiate contracts, then do it. If not, then work with a reliable speakers bureau.

Speakers bureaus have large databases of speakers who are experts in various fields and topics, as well as large networks of contacts. It’s their job to know the most popular, effective speakers. A competent speakers bureau provides guidance and advice on selection, logistics and contracts so you can focus on the rest of the conference or event.

However, you still have to do all the homework we talked about earlier and give them clear specifications about the speaker you need. You can’t just say, “I want a speaker just like (insert high-priced celebrity speaker name), but for $2,000.”

The Bottom Line on the Best Speaker

The right outside speaker can have an incredible impact on your overall conference or event and influence how the attendees feel about the organizers or company. Guest speakers can help reinforce the objectives, build credibility and leave a lasting impression. You want a speaker who will:

  • Deliver something your audience won’t find anywhere else
  • Be real, share relevant stories, and present honestly and authentically
  • Be willing to customize the presentation for your audience and objectives
  • Be willing to stick around to connect with your audience
  • Be flexible and reliable

Look for someone who fits with the audience in terms of age and gender diversity so he or she can relate to everyone and make the audience feel included in the messages. Remarkable as it may seem, not everyone is enthralled by professional sports players or coaches.

A powerful guest speaker can give your conference or event a jolt of energy, generate interest and attendance, and send people home with positive memories. Plus, it lets you hear people describe your event in terms like “insightful,” “valuable” and “motivating.” You can’t do much better than that.

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