How to book a Guest Speaker

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When you need a speaker for an event you are planning, it can be tempting to use a bureau specialising in keynote speakers.  However, although this may seem to be the easiest option, you will be paying through the nose for the experience.  Whilst a bureau may appear to have a wonderful choice of speakers, you will be paying around 20% more than you would had you gone directly to the speaker, in direct bureau fees.  Also you need to be aware that the bureau will possibly pitch a speaker at a higher rate than his/her experience warrants.  In addition to the above, once you have contacted a bureau, you are seen as a sales lead and will undoubtedly be harassed about booking one of their speakers…

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So, where do you start?  Google is a great place to start looking for a speaker.  Search for one that covers the subject you specifically require, eg “social media keynote speaker”, “leadership speaker” and so on.  Once you land on the speaker’s website, look for signs of the type of person you would like to speak at your event; is the site neat and well-designed? Does the site show evidence of a lot of speaking experience?  Are there any videos for you to watch so that you can get an idea of what you would get?  YouTube is a good place to look too – many speakers try to avoid their speaking videos going on YouTube because they cannot control the editing or comments associated with their videos, but the best speakers should feel confident about being videotaped during their speeches and having it posted on the internet.  If you find that a speaker has several presentations posted on YouTube, then you can be sure that he/she has nothing to hide and you will see the genuine article.  All you have to do then is decide whether their style of speaking is right for your event.

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Word of mouth referrals are possibly the best recommendation – speak to your friends and colleagues and ask them which speakers if any they have hired in the past.  Always ask for a video though so that you can vet them yourself.

Once you have decided on your guest speaker, you need to think carefully about the planning of your event.  Don’t schedule your keynotes during breakfast, lunch or dinner – don’t make them compete with food as food will always win.  Also, don’t insist that speakers modify their graphics to fit a particular event template for all slides.  Their brands should be respected and that is part of what you are hiring them for.  Resist the temptation to see the slides ahead of time and distribute them to your audience beforehand – the best speakers are tweaking their presentations right up to the event, so try to maintain some suspense!

Our tips for best-practice conference planning include the following:

Ask you keynote speaker to send in a 30-60 second video clip beforehand, which will help with internal and external promotion.

If your programme is quite lengthy, think about using an MC who is lively and interactive and who can help your audience through the day, encourage interaction and make sure that nothing slips through the cracks.  This can be someone from your own organisation if budget is a bit tight.

Build in some breaks.  There is a tendency to try and pack too much in, so try and include some networking time during the day to break things up a bit.  People’s concentration can wane if there is too much for them to take in and they will undoubtedly miss some salient points.

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Think about the room set-up – cabaret is the most popular seating for conferences, but it is the worst for speaking audiences.  Round tables mean that a lot of the delegates have their back to the speaker and also puts distance between them which can lessen the effect of some talks.  Theatre style will have your delegates sitting a lot closer together and encourages more interaction.

How far ahead should you aim to book your keynote speaker?  Sometimes, if you want a very popular speaker, you may need to book one year in advance, but the norm is 2-3 months.  The longer you allow yourself for this, the better the speaker you will get and you will have much longer to prepare for your event and promote it, which in turn should result in a very successful event.

How much should you expect to pay for your keynote speaker?  Costs vary tremendously from speaker to speaker, but as a rule you can expect  to pay most for a Celebrity, a bit less for a Professor, less again for an Author and the least expensive being a CEO.   Rates could be anywhere from £7000 to £30,000.

Bearing these costs in mind, how can you be sure to get the best value out of your keynote speaker?

Keynotes are an investment that you make on your event. Ensuring that you have a good quality experience for your company and attendees should be your top priority.

If you’re working directly with a speaker, you can do a few things to maximise your spend with your keynote:

  • See if you can get books for attendees included with your keynote cost or at a discounted rate – if this is an option, see if they’ll be open to doing a book signing.
  • Ask about availability to do an interview before the event for a blog post, podcast or video post to promote the event.
  • Check to see if they’ll share that they’re speaking at your event on Twitter or other channels.

The keynote speaker is the cornerstone of an event. Finding one takes time, effort, negotiation and patience in order to amplify the value proposition of your function.

Keep in mind that the rules determining cost of a keynote are always in flux – if you pay a lot for your keynote and your audience can’t stop talking, tweeting and blogging about what an impact they had on their careers, you get have certainly got what you paid for

 

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