How to Hire a Speaker for Your Event

Hiring a keynote speaker can feel like the most daunting task when planning an event. Whether you seek a celebrity speaker to help raise institutional funds, a motivational speaker to advance sales or a business speaker to support your team in coping with change, you need a professional. In fact, that single keynote presentation often determines overall event success.

That’s a lot of pressure for an event organizer.

But the task does not need to be daunting. By keeping certain considerations in mind, and following a step-by-step approach, you can all but guarantee a positive, fun and motivational company gathering. Let’s look at some best practices in hiring the right speaker for your next business or charitable event.

Get to know your event: set goals, objectives and outcomes first.

As an event planner, the most stressful part for me always came at the opening strategy stage. Don’t rush yourself at the beginning. Talk with other organizers, managers, employees and anyone else with a stake in the event. Give yourself time to fully understand how the day or afternoon will unfold. That is, the timing, space and intended purpose of the guest speaker.

Separate goals, objectives and outcomes. An immediate goal may simply be hiring a speaker, but think of objectives and outcomes, too. Define them. Is your objective to inspire your audience or to promote a cause? Is it to create better communication in your company or to entertain attendees between working break-out sessions?

Then, consider your intended outcomes. Perhaps you seek to enhance creativity in a company that has become complacent, or to increase donations for longevity of a program. While you haven’t begun thinking of particular speakers yet, getting a sense of objective and outcomes will assist you in the process later.

Define your time and budget.

Two things matter most in event planning: time and budget. And both are in short supply!

Once you’ve defined your objectives and outcomes, you can better address the role of your guest speaker. Consider how much money you have to spend and the amount of time you can a lot. There will certainly be moving pieces, and you may have to revisit scheduling and budget several times during the planning process. For instance, you may first desire a keynote presentation at a certain time for a certain price. But later, the person you want costs a few dollars more and is only available at another time. You will need to shift things around as you go, but it’s important to start with a working plan.

What kind of speaker will be most useful and memorable to attendees?

If you already have a fair sense of the above steps, you will be surprised at how easily the rest falls into place. You are now ready to consider the kind of keynote address you would like to have for your company event.

You will face certain pressures. Everyone from the CEO to coworkers will have an opinion on who you should hire as a speaker. So might the caterer you spoke with! Take in their suggestions, whether informally or at meetings. Jot down every idea. You’ll revisit them later.

Most importantly, think as though you were any other attendee. Consider what kind of speaker will be most relevant and engaging to your audience. Your audience may consist of employees, outside guests from the public, or both. Revisit your objectives and outcomes. The speaker you’d want for a public groundbreaking ceremony will engage very differently than a speaker for an internal sustainability initiative.

Research your guest speakers.

Believe it or not, you’re already mostly there! By now, a fuller picture has formed. You should have a clear idea of your audience and where to guide them. Now, you can begin looking more deeply at specific guest speakers.

Revisit the lists you made earlier from the suggestions of others. Make phone calls, send messages and get on the internet. That is, follow every lead and source as you search for available guest speakers who align with your goals. Check out their availability. More importantly, visit their websites and available media. A guest motivational speaker who interests you almost certainly has Ted Talks and other media available on hosting sites like iTunes, YouTube, Spotify and others. Gather a sense of them. Do they align with your purpose? Do they interest you personally? If not, you will almost certainly find several other “suggested” speakers along a similar vein.

Mostly, keep a strong balance of the subjective and the objective when researching media. On one hand, they should be exciting. You want someone who is motivational and subjectively “grabbing” your attention. Objectively, you also need to look critically at whether a particular keynote speaker has the right familiarity with your event’s defined objectives and outcomes.

Begin contacting potential speakers.

In most cases, you will not contact your guest speaker directly. Rather, you will work through a booking agent.

Yes, if your event is small or purely of local interest, you might be able to reach out to a “local celebrity” or internal guru yourself. But for a memorable event, you need an experienced motivator and thought leader. And “experienced” usually means that they are busy!

Don’t let that worry you. In fact, working through a booking agent will make your job easier.

Booking agents have been through this routine before, hundreds or perhaps thousands of times. They will work with you on scheduling to meet your timing, budget and event needs. Just don’t be afraid to express your specific objective and outcomes to the booking agent. It’s better to find out now rather than later that the speaker you initially chose doesn’t exactly suit the subject matter you intend for your keynote address.

Keep your eyes on the prize and remain versatile.

Every event—whether corporate or foundational—has dozens of moving parts. Each piece is an opportunity for something not to work out as perfectly as you planned. A caterer brings the wrong meals. An assistant you depended on calls in sick. And, in rare cases, your keynote speaker arrives late.

Flight delays happen. Things go wrong. Planning is everything, but only if you remember that part of planning is knowing that everything won’t go exactly as you imagined. Remain versatile. Have backup and contingency plans. Be ready to think on the fly throughout the day and smile the whole way through.

If an audience needs to be engaged for an extra 10 or even 20 minutes, don’t be caught off guard. Instead, rehearse, know your available resources and be ready to take charge of your event personally when needed.

Get started hiring your event speaker.

Event planning does not need to be hard, but it is up to you to make it easier. And in the process, take your event from good to great.

We will assist you in hiring the best event speaker available. SUCCESS Speakers Bureau provides a growing list of dozens of top international speakers from a spectrum of industries and backgrounds. Plus, each speaker is searchable by keyword, saving you time. After that, booking your guest speaker has never been easier. All it takes is adding the time of your event plus your contact information. 

Make your next event the best one yet. Check out the dozens of bestselling authors, motivational speakers and the top business leaders SUCCESS Speakers Bureau has to offer.

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