Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Hiring A Speaker For Your Business Events

There is a great article in this month's "Meeting South Magazine" about hiring professional speakers and maximizing value. Economic pressures have mean meeting planners are facing smaller budgets for their conferences, but there are many reasons why they hire paid professional speakers rather than just finding anyone with a pulse and knowledge to take the stage.

My mantra is: "just because someone is smart or has done something cool does NOT make them a speaker!" Seasoned event organizers understand the right speaker sets the tone for the whole meeting. Finding the balance between cost and value is key to a successful conference!

The author of the piece, Ruth Hill, does a great job of covering the realities of how the recession has impacted the meeting business, specifically those who speak at conferences, conventions, sales meetings and other gatherings,... while giving great advice on how to get the most value when engaging a speaker.

For me, being hired to speak at a conference is about much more than the keynote itself. I work closely with the event organizers to ensure that I provide them with more value than they expected, and that my interactions with the audience are ongoing beyond my time on the stage.

The "Conference Networking Catalyst" program keeps me involved at all breaks, happy hours, meals, etc.... and I have found that those in attendance prefer it when the speakers are visible throughout the conference and not just "speak and run".

I always am willing to provide extras that help the organizer succeed in their event: breakout sessions, book signings, special education programs for trade show vendors, etc... I want every meeting planner to think of me as a strategic partner in making their event spectacular!

From the article:

Speakers bureaus are among the first to note that planners should explore the variety of services that today’s speakers and presenters are often capable of providing. If not, they are leaving money on the table.

According to Gail Davis, president of Gail Davis & Associates, a Colleyville, Texas-based speakers bureau, smart buyers are looking for a maximum return on investment when they shop for a speaker.

"They ask about what this speaker can do in addition to the main presentation," she says. "Will they do a breakout with strategic sales managers, and will they include travel expenses in their fee?"

In a side panel to the article, Ms. Hill reminds meeting planners not to treat speakers as "commodities" when negotiating speaking fees. Professional speaker Laura Stack provides several tips that can help meeting planners and professional speakers create win / win programs:

According to Stack, the following strategies will help create a win-win outcome:

  • Barter System: What is there to offer the speaker instead of cash? Consider resources from members, suppliers, exhibitors or sponsors that are tradable. The possibilities could include hotel stays, a spa treatment or exhibitor products. Some speakers have traded portions of their fee for, say, travel, boating equipment and electronics.
  • Creative Payment Plans: If immediate funds are short, think about paying part of the speaker fee in installments. For example, if the fee is $5,000 and only $4,000 is available, negotiate to pay the extra $1,000 over a later time period.
  • Airfare Considerations: The speaker might have frequent flyer miles he or she can use to get to the event, saving the organization cash travel expenses. Another strategy is to negotiate that air expenses are not to exceed a certain amount, particularly if the event is more than six months out—enough time for fares to change dramatically.
  • Draw Funds from Varied Budgets: If the speaker has authored a book, provide one copy per attendee as an event gift. At $10 per copy for 500 people, it’s possible to reduce the speaker expense line item in the budget by $5,000 and charge the materials budget, professional education or publications budget instead.
  • Find Mutual Value: Talk with the speaker until you uncover a situation that represents a mutual "win." Does the speaker value being paid in full in advance? Does he or she have relatives in that city who would like to attend? Maybe the speaker just wants to get on the inside track with the organization. The speaker must be able to justify the negotiation and explain why they did what they did to the next client.
  • Get Sponsorships: Get an exhibitor or supplier member to sponsor the speaker. This can be a good marketing opportunity for sponsors. In return for paying the speaker fee, planners can provide the sponsor with live and media mentions surrounding the event.
  • Marketing Assistance: Some engagements are great marketing opportunities for speakers, exposing them to audience members who have the ability to hire them for future work in their individual organizations. Some of the ways to enable speaker "exposure" are via a booth in the trade show, a link to the speaker’s website from the meeting’s website, publicity about the speaker in meeting marketing materials or approval to sell books and other resources at the event.
Good points! The best one is "Get Sponsorships", as I have worked at several events where the hosting organization found a specific sponsor to cover the cost of the keynote speaker(s). In some cases they have had the sponsor pay the speakers directly. This is a good way for a sponsoring company to get extra exposure, and the right speaker will honor (not pander to) the sponsor.

Have A Great Day.


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