1. Determine the needs of your audience
Thorough knowledge of the needs of your group is essential in
selecting the right speaker. Does your meeting require that the
audience leave with specific or technical information? Do you
need someone to motivate the group to sell? Are you looking for
after-dinner entertainment with a message?
2. Establish your date, time and budget
- Start looking for a speaker as soon as the date for your
meeting is set. Many speakers book engagements up to a year in
advance and you will want to get on their calendar as soon as
- Consider how much time you have to fill and where that
time falls in your overall program. If your time slot is
flexible, a professional speaker can often tell you the right
amount of time for the job. A professional can also make
recommendations about the order of topics/speakers if one
presentation will follow another. (You may not want to follow
a humorist with a detailed educational presentation.)
- Factor in the fee you are willing or able to pay for a
speaker. Your search for a speaker can be narrowed or
broadened based upon your budget.
3. Identify the type of speaker who
will best match the needs of your audience
A speaker's expertise in a given field may be the big draw,
but a well-known name does not guarantee a professional
presentation. High prices don't always mean high quality. Will
your audience and the overall program benefit most from a
celebrity; an expert in the field; a popular sports personality;
a best-selling author; or a professional speaker who has a
thorough knowledge of the appropriate topic?
4. Locate your resources
- Personal referrals are a great way to narrow your search.
Ask colleagues for recommendations.
- Speakers bureaus locate and book speakers according to
your specifications and needs. A bureau can locate speakers
and quote fees. Many bureaus specialize in particular speakers
such as celebrities, authors or athletes. Speakers bureaus can
often be found in your local phone directory under "Speakers
Bureau" or "Agent." You can also use the internet to find
bureaus. Try the International Association of Speakers Bureaus
(IASB) or Marketplace NSA.
- Click here to jump to The National Speakers Association's
Online Directory of Professional Speakers. This directory
contains information on more than 3,800 speakers and can be
searched by topic, keyword, location, name and so on.
5. Review your options and interview
your speaker candidates
- A professional speaker will be a real partner in this
process. Often they will ask questions about the needs of your
audience and what they can accomplish for you. Ask your
candidates for references and, if they are speaking in your
area, ask if you can attend the program and observe them in
- Assure that a potential speaker has addressed groups
similar to yours. Talk with them about their experience. Ask
for a biography, testimonials and videos of their
presentations, preferably before a live audience.
- Find a speaker who will tailor his or her presentation to
- Ask the speaker if they belong to professional
associations. Also ask what awards or certifications they have
6. Select your speaker
- Hire a professional and you'll hire an ally. Professional
speakers understand that your reputation is riding on their
performance. Their experience with hundreds of audiences can
add to your peace of mind and to the success of the event.
- When selecting your speaker, consider that you are not
only paying for the time the speaker is on the platform but
also for the hours spent researching, preparing and
customizing the presentation. Some speakers may negotiate
their fees when they are doing more than one program for you
or when they are allowed to sell their products. Ask about
7. Get it in writing
You should have a letter of agreement or contract that
clearly outlines the expectations of both you and your speaker.
- travel arrangements and transportation;
- accommodations and meals;
- fees, reimbursements and payment terms;
- whether you want the speaker to attend social events;
- if the speaker may sell products and if so, how this will
- an agreement on any audio- or videotaping of the
- cancellation policies;
- audio/visual requirements;
- and legal implications, if any, your contract may contain.
8. Work with your speaker
Share information about your group or company. This will help
the speaker become familiar with your organization, while
facilitating a customized presentation.
- Send your newsletter or anything which would include key
people, buzz words or insider news and views.
- Give the speaker a clear outline of what you expect.
- Be specific about the size and demographics of your
- Let the speaker know in advance about other speakers on
the program. This gives the speaker the opportunity to build
on (and not duplicate) what the other speakers say.
9. Set the stage
- Make sure the room is set up for optimum impact. Consider
the number of chairs and how they are arranged. Also consider
room temperature and lighting.
- Stay on schedule. Although a professional will be able to
"make up" time or slow things down if needed, keeping your
program on schedule will allow your audience to get the full
impact of the program you have created for them.
- Your speaker should be able to provide you with a good
introduction of themselves and their topic. The introduction
should be short, energizing and create positive expectations.
10. Evaluate the results
- Have your audience complete evaluations on the speaker and
his/her presentation. This will allow you to gauge your
results and plan for future programs. Send copies of the
evaluations to your speaker. The San Diego Chapter of the
National Speakers Association stands ready to help you with
the most important element of a successful meeting--finding
the right speaker. Although we do not book or recommend
specific individuals, we're pleased to answer any of your
questions. Just drop us