Six Keys to Booking the Perfect Speakers in 2006

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The Speakers Group speakers bureau outlines six simple keys to help meeting and event planners find speakers who fit their budget, are thematically on target, and are enjoyable to work with – all contributors to a successful speaker booking. The same keys are also effective in selecting event entertainment.

For meeting and event planners with programs that will include paid, outside speakers in 2006, The Speakers Group, a speakers bureau based in Nashville, Tennessee, offers six simple keys to help ensure successful bookings in the New Year:

1. Don’t consider speakers or entertainers based on your budget alone. Some speakers who appear to be more than you can afford will negotiate on price or offer additional services that will save you money on other budget line items. Also, maxing out your budget does not automatically bring the best speaker or entertainer for your specific program objectives. Obviously you can’t disregard your budget altogether, but don’t let it give you tunnel vision, either.

2. Always keep your audience in mind when selecting a speaker. By talking to your prospective audience members and reviewing past event evaluations, you’ll learn what they want. The right speaker may not be your personal favorite. Keep your audience’s preferences in mind throughout the speaker evaluation process, even after hours of reviewing speaker videos and materials on your own.

3. For each of the speakers you are considering seriously, request letters of recommendation from at least two meeting planners who have utilized that speaker in the past. Better yet, talk to those planners. This will allow you to hear the feedback of someone who has been in your shoes and understands what is important to you. You can address your concerns and also ask about any surprises – good or bad – that you should be aware of when working with a particular speaker.

4. Find a speaker who has a track record of going the extra mile for clients. Testimonial letters and phone calls with past clients of speakers will be most helpful here. When you find a speaker who calls when he or she arrives at the hotel, stays as long as it takes for book signings, goes out “in the field” to prepare for your audience, and offers other extras of this nature, you’ve found a speaker who is serious about your success, and someone who can be a true partner for your event.

5. Have at least a 15-minute phone conversation with your #1 candidate before signing a contract. Now that you’ve narrowed your search, this final call will either assure you that you’ve made the right choice, or alert you to reconsider. If you’re not absolutely comfortable with the speaker on the phone, don’t hesitate to pause and talk to your second- or third-favorite candidates. Talking to a speaker will allow you to hear how he or she would approach your event and your audience, and will ensure that your relationship with your speaker gets off on the right foot.

6. Treat your speaker with respect and courtesy from the moment the contract is signed – before, during, and after your event. What does this have to do with selecting the perfect speaker? Consider it a head-start on your next event. Chances are, when you find one great speaker for your event, that speaker will be able to recommend another great speaker for your event. Evaluating referrals is always easier and more effective than starting your search cold.

Outstanding speakers are a valuable asset to any meeting planner. There are plenty available, but not every speaker is right for every event. By remembering these six basic keys in the speaker selection process, planners will find a speaker who fits their budget, is thematically on target, is enjoyable to work with, and most likely, will be a key contributor to a successful event. The end result: the meeting planner is a hero. And, these same practices are also effective in selecting event entertainment.

As a complement to the six keys outlined above, The Speakers Group has created a checklist of “12 Critical Questions” planners should ask during the speaker or entertainment evaluation process. The checklist is available for download at

About The Speakers Group:

The Speakers Group is a speakers bureau based in Nashville, Tennessee, established in 2003 by Shawn Ellis. Prior to founding The Speakers Group, Ellis served five years at another of the nation’s leading speakers bureaus, including three years as Executive Vice President. With a commitment to prompt, friendly, personalized, and knowledgeable service, The Speakers Group can help meeting planners secure virtually any speaker or entertainer available today.


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Shawn Ellis