FAQs for Meeting Planners


Wouldn't it cost less to hire the speaker directly, rather than going through a Speaker bureau?


For what speaker expenses should I budget in addition to his or her fee?
You should budget for the speaker's round-trip airfare, round-trip ground transportation, hotel accommodations, meals during the speaker's travel days and presentation day(s), and technical requirements (e.g., lavalier microphones, LCD display, flip chart).  The speaker's class of travel (first-class, business-class, economy) should be stipulated to in your contract with the bureau.  You may also want to budget for the following:  purchase of handouts, books, and other products from the speaker, (possible) surcharge for audio- and videotaping of program, and (possible) surcharge for additional requests such as signing autographs and attending golf outings or receptions.


When planning a conference, isn't the speaker's fee a good place to keep costs low?
The cost of a professional speaker or entertainer--even those with the highest of fees--is only a small fraction of the total expense of putting on a conference but is likely to be the most important expenditure you make. The take-home value of a superb keynote speaker and the excitement generated by a top entertainer will have a far more longer-lasting effect than just about any other element of the conference, including your meeting site.  Ironically, skimping on a speaker or corporate entertainment is, therefore, likely be a costly mistake.


Your speaker selection is one of the most important elements in a successful meeting. Selecting the right speaker for your meeting can be a daunting task, as speakers are available in every fee range and specialty topic.


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 possible.
  • 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.



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 action.
  • 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 your group.
  • Ask the speaker if they belong to professional associations. Also ask what awards or certifications they have earned. The National Speakers Association's designation is the Certified Speaking Professional (CSP). The CSP is earned for extended speaking experience and client satisfaction. You might also choose a member of the CPAE Speaker Hall of Fame.



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 your options.



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. Consider:


  • 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 be handled;
  • an agreement on any audio- or videotaping of the presentation;
  • 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 audience.
  • 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. Please click here to see sample evaluation forms.




Why Not Get Full Dollars Worth?
It seems a real shame to spend all the time that's necessary to orient a speaker to your organization, familiarize them with your products and services, introduce them to your people, educate them about the business you're in, and then have them leave immediately after their presentation never to be seen again by your group.

If your speaker truly is a valuable resource and you've gone to all this trouble to get him/her ready to do a proper job for you, then perhaps there are several ways to utilize the speaker's resources on the day of their appearance. In many cases, the increase in costs will be so small that it will cost significantly less than bringing in another speaker even at a lower fee.

Here is what we do: When I'm booked for a keynote presentation, I immediately start reviewing the convention agenda with the meeting planner in order to determine if there might be workshops, seminars, or breakout sessions which I might be able to conduct. If we can schedule the seminar after the keynote speech the chances are good that the seminar will be full and the people will be eager to attend.

In addition to that, while I'm on site I can meet with a specially selected group for a specific purpose. For example, I can meet with the top salespeople to help them refine their skills even further, or I might even meet with some of the salespeople or managers who are having problems to help them solve some of the problems and overcome their challenges. All of this without my client scheduling any extra travel or incurring any extra expenses.

Any time you hire a speaker, you deserve to get a great deal of value from that person. These ideas should help you work with your speakers in such a way that they have the maximum possible impact on your audience and provide the greatest possible service to your organization.

            Have a great meeting!


Just How Much Can a Speaker Do?

A meeting planner asked me sometime ago if I could do five presentations on one day and three more the following day, all presentations before different audiences, but on exactly the same subject. When I started my speaking career I would have answered eagerly, "Yes!," but wisdom and experience have taught me differently.


What a speaker does in front of an audience requires just about as much energy within a one hour time frame, as a typical eight hour day working in an office. With that in mind there aren't many quality performances possible from one speaker in a given day. I've found that for me, even though I have a rather high energy level, I'm only good for about three separate presentations per day. It's interesting to me that a speech presentation is similar in many ways to jet travel. The airplane uses up the majority of its fuel on take-off and once it's airborne can cruise for tremendous distances without burning up an excessive amount of fuel.


I figure I'm capable of three quality "take-offs" per day. The length of each presentation can vary from 30 minutes to three hours, but it's the take-offs that burn up the energy. Each time I'm with a new audience I have to go through a psychological process with them to shift their thinking to where I need it to be. Also, I need to raise their energy to a highly receptive level so that they will absorb all of the information I am bringing and participate, as necessary, in the program.


Suggestion: Talk with your speakers, ask them what they feel they're capable of in a day at maximum energy. You might be able to get them to do more than the optimum number of presentations in a day, but in doing so you would be cheating yourself and your audience. After most of the good energy is burnt up, the speaker will be giving only token performances for the remaining audiences. Your audiences deserve more than that and so do your speakers. It's usually better to assemble your audiences all together and have your speaker address them as one overall group rather than breaking them up into sub-groups and repeating the presentations again and again. The larger the group, usually the more powerful the impact the speaker can have on the audience.




Meeting Promotion And Publicity Checklist

1. Review previous years' promotional budgets

2. Determine objectives and scope of program

3. Determine audience(s): membership, potential exhibitors, an industry or trade, general public.

4. Develop theme and corresponding graphics. Considerations should include purposes of individual pieces: who will receive them, tone to be conveyed, how they will be produced, how many colors will be needed, what layout format is required at each stage (from rough to comprehensive), and how much is budgeted for them.

5. Develop a schedule for the campaign.

6. Set promotional budget based on characteristics of membership, features of the venue, time of year, strength of program, and costs of attendance.

7. Develop promotional materials according to tested criteria: short and forceful sentences, convincing explanation of benefits to attendees, clear emphasis on important elements of meeting, and easy means of registering.

8. Plan for all items needed for the campaign to carry theme forward, taking into account costs of special effects like embossing or die -cutting; quality, grade, weight, and finish of paper; number of ink colors used; time for production; and quantity required:

a. pre-meeting letters and announcements
b. preliminary programs
c. registration and housing forms
d. promotional pieces for both exhibitors and attendees
e. invitations
f. follow-up mailings
g. final agendas/program books
h. badge inserts
i. tickets
j. on-site registration materials
k. signage
l. newsletters
m. lists of registered attendees

9. Solicit a minimum of three competitive bids for all printing, checking samples of paper stock, samples of work for other meetings, references, and explanation of other services each firm can provide.

10. Select printer(s), taking into account whether need is for "quick" or commercial quality, demonstrated ability of a single printer to handle all needs, availability of necessary equipment for jobs, and ability to meet deadlines.

11. Agree with printer on schedule into which extra time is built, and monitor deadlines for rough layout, submission of copy, preliminary approval, completed layout, final approval of blueline, and delivery of job.

12. Promote at previous year's meeting.

13. Release promotional pieces, press releases, and related materials in accordance with schedule, with news releases preceding membership promotional mailings.

14. Target local, national, international media as appropriate by type: trade papers, newspapers and periodicals of general interest, radio and television tailored to market.

15. Overall, control promotional costs through following measures:

a. Obtaining firm written bids for services
b. Providing clean, competently proofread copy to printers
c. Using standard paper sizes where at all possible
d. Using same paper stock for many pieces
e. Piggybacking print items using same color
f. Using standard PMS ink colors
g. Reusing graphics
h. Avoiding unnecessary special effects
i. Avoiding perforations in favor of dotted-line cutting guides
j. Coordinating printing times
k. Setting and enforcing firm policy on overtime
l. Minimizing number of copy changes