How to choose a speaker for your event

How to choose a speaker for my event

Penny HaslamHow to book a motivational speaker

How to choose a speaker for my event. Selecting the right speaker for your event might seem daunting and it's a decision that shouldn't be taken lightly.

That's because your choice has the potential to elevate your gathering from the ordinary to an unforgettable experience. To do this, you'll want to hire someone who can captivate, inspire, and leave a lasting impression.

Whatever your decision, this guide is here to help you ask the right questions and make an informed and impactful decision. Here's my best advice on getting the perfect person to deliver a keynote or motivational talk at your event. 

1. What makes a memorable speaker?

A memorable keynote speaker is someone with the ability to add lasting value. Although it's very pleasing and enjoyable for them to come along and wow your audience, they must add something more.

Your speaker will only be memorable if they offer lasting impact and value.

So what does value mean? Well, regardless of whether your attendees are business people, employees or just a collection of individuals. Everyone should leave the event knowing how to do something differently, find a new approach to a problem, or think in a different way.

Yes, it's got to be motivational and inspirational, but for me, "memorable" means ideas and actions they can take home and use well beyond the day. So, think about the lasting impact that speaker can bring and if your audience will still be talking about them in 6 months!

2. What should I consider when choosing a speaker for my event?

When choosing a speaker for your event ask if they are going to nuance their talk and do their homework on your audience?

Your speaker needs to take time (in advance) to research your audience and find out what makes them tick. That could be as simple as finding out their vernacular or in-house corporate speak. 

Often, I'll add value ahead to an event, by asking the organiser to put me in touch with three random members of the audience, so I can chat with them. We'll discuss the organisation's culture, work, challenges and things they are really proud of. 

Only by doing this homework, can a speaker land their message most appropriately for that specific audience.

I call this my 80:20 rule. 80% of my content is the same every time I speak, the value being I know what works. I've perfected it over several years. But 20% of my keynote will be nuanced for that specific audience so it lands really well. 

If your speaker doesn't do this, they'll fail to build rapport with the audience and may not engage them with their ideas. Keynotes aren't just about talking at the audience with little understanding. That's just using a sledgehammer to crack a nut!

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3. How to choose a speaker - What should I look for in speaker profiles?

How to choose a speaker for your event - Look for testimonials from similar businesses.

Ask, does that speaker work in your market and speak to audiences like yours? Organisers should look for speaker testimonials from organisations like theirs. 

It's all very well having a raving fan on a speaker's website saying how brilliant they are, but if that fan is from a completely different sector or strata of employees, then that testimonial may not be relevant.

Expanding your search for a speaker by contacting networks that are aligned with your industry. Often they have first-hand experience with speakers who resonate with your specific sector. 

Also, look for recommendations from trade associations and LinkedIn groups. Other industry event organisers can yield useful recommendations.

These networks will help you gather a list of potential speakers and should be able to quickly point you towards professionals who have proven themselves in your industry. 

4. How to choose a speaker for my event - How important is a speaker showreel?

If a speaker doesn't have any video on their website showcasing their work then walk away. Look for a showreel with content that is useful for your audience.

Remember, it's very easy to make a razamataz showreel with amazing music and editing, BUT what value will you get from that speaker's content? Ask yourself:

Is their message coherent?

Is it confidently delivered?

Do you like the way they speak?

Do you like their energy on stage?

Would all of the above go down well with the audience you have in mind?

All speakers are likely to have a full-length recording of their keynote or talk on video or audio. Ask for longer clips or key excerpts from their talks. Show the clips or showreel to colleagues or a small sample of the potential audience.

Check out my showreels here: Penny Haslam - Motivational Speaker

5. How important is credibility when deciding on a speaker?

Credibility is important, it's all very well having an amazing speaker but do they have any career background in the areas you want them to discuss? 

For example, if they're talking about leadership, have they ever been a leader of note? Expertise is enormously important if your audience is going to take them seriously. What are their career achievements? What genuine expertise will they share?

Have they written a book? Many speakers are also authors so check the reviews on Amazon. Often they'll include people who've seen them speak and then bought the book. What are they saying about their impact and how they've helped?

Credibility can stem from a speaker's life experience in ways that formal qualifications may not suggest. Perhaps they've overcome significant challenges or succeeded in a particular field without traditional credentials. Maybe they offer unique, practical insights. 

Life experience can also make a speaker more relatable to certain audiences. This form of credibility is particularly valuable when the speaker's personal journey is relevant to the event's theme or the audience's interests.

6. What other factors should I consider when picking a professional speaker?

Diversity - Do your speaker candidates reflect the audience in the room?

There are lots of excellent speakers but only a minority are women or from diverse backgrounds. Try hard to reflect the make-up of your audience in your choice of speaker.

This will enhance the event's relevance and impact. A diverse line-up can offer a range of perspectives that resonate with a broader audience, enriching the conversation and making the event more inclusive. 

Doing this not only shows your commitment to diversity but also acknowledges the varied experiences and viewpoints of your attendees.

It sends a positive message about your organisation's values, possibly attracting a wider range of participants for future events. 

7. Are qualifications and organisation memberships a good indicator of quality when picking a professional speaker? 

No. I would love to be able to say there was. 

Although qualifications and membership in a professional body suggest a certain level of commitment to their topic, leaning into their stagecraft and content. It doesn't guarantee stage presence, audience engagement, or the relevance of the subject matter. It shouldn't be the sole criteria for evaluating a speaker's quality.

Some exceptional speakers may not be part of any formal organisations, just as there are organisational members who don't bring as much to the stage as others from the same organisation.

In short, while membership and qualifications can be useful for narrowing down your options, they should be considered alongside other factors like past performance, reviews, and subject matter expertise. Membership can be a positive indicator but not an absolute measure of quality. 

8. How much do professional speakers cost?

Don't be surprised that speakers can be expensive. The cost of hiring a professional speaker varies widely, influenced by factors such as industry, expertise, and fame.

Fees can range from a few hundred to £25,000 or more. For instance, speakers targeting schools and educational institutions may offer more budget rates, while top sales speakers or celebrities often command premium fees.

Sometimes event organisers have said to me, 

"How much? It's just an hour!" 

It's crucial to consider that a speaker's fee reflects more than just the time they spend on stage. 

It accounts for their years of experience, content development, preparation, the price of making themselves available on your event date, and most importantly, the take-home value they bring to your audience. 

The fee is not an hourly rate but a representation of the lasting impact the speaker is expected to make. Great speakers have, and continue to initiate positive (and profitable) changes in their audience's lives and businesses.

That said, don't be afraid to negotiate. Consider opening figures as a starting point.

It's common to negotiate fees, but remember that quality speakers know their market rate. 

9. Should I use a speaker agency when choosing a professional speaker?

By all means, don't just rely on a Google search. Consider approaching speaker agencies, do your homework and take time to draw up a list of candidates. 

You may find it easier to negotiate a budget and draw on an agency's experience to find the ideal speaker. 

Similarly, speakers themselves are happy to be approached and should provide a free and no-obligation discovery call so you can discuss your needs and check them out.

10. Before choosing a professional speaker decide on the theme of your event first

Before you start your hunt for a speaker, you should decide on a theme for your event. Your theme might be:

"Change and resilience in accountancy practice."

Or something more fun, like the event I attended recently:

"There's no I but there is a ME in CoMms HEro."

Whatever you choose - Be clear on the topic

By being very clear on the theme of your event first, you can then find a speaker to match your ambition. Failing to do this could mean you end up booking a speaker who's great on stage but falls short of the content you are seeking.

Bonus. When booking a professional speaker what are the key questions I should ask?

Any speak should offer you a free, no-obligation discovery call. Here are some question ideas to get the meeting rolling. 

  • Are you available on the dates of our event, and what is your cancellation policy?
  • What is your specific area of expertise and how does it align with our event's theme?
  • Have you spoken to similar audiences and what was the impact?
  • Can you tailor your talk to our specific needs and objectives?
  • What topics will you cover, can you provide a summary of the content in advance?
  • How long is your typical talk, and can it be adjusted to fit our schedule?
  • What is your fee structure, and what does it include? Are there additional costs for travel or materials?
  • What audio-visual equipment do you require?
  • Aside from the talk, do you offer any additional resources like handouts, follow-up sessions, or promotional materials?
  • Can you provide references or testimonials from past speaking events?
  • What do you need from us to prepare effectively for the event?
  • Do you provide any post-event evaluation or follow-up?


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