Meetings & Conventions: Planner's Portfolio January
Back to Basics
By Terence Baker
HIRING THE PERFECT PRESENTER
How speaker bureaus can streamline the selection process and
keep costs within budget
Booking a big-name speaker might seem like a coup, but the real
qualifying factors should be how well the speaker suits the theme
and goals of the program to be addressed, and how that person will
complement the entire event.
Finding the right candidate can be a daunting prospect but
that’s why speaker bureaus exist. A well-run bureau that
understands the event’s goals can provide the right speaker and
help take care of a host of related details, all while keeping to a
For valuable advice on working with bureaus, M&C spoke with
Jim Montoya, CAE, executive vice president of the
Indianapolis-based International Association of Speakers Bureaus
speaker Teresa Allen (www.allenspeaks.com) of Shreveport, La.; Mark Goldman,
president of Oxnard, Calif.-based bureau Damon Brooks Associates
(www.damonbrooks.com); and Philip Frankio, president of
the Speakers Guild (www.speakersguild.com), a bureau in Sandwich, Mass.
Before making any calls, analyze the event’s agenda to see what
type of speaker and subject matter would best fit.
Ask colleagues with similar programs for recommendations. Look
at the event’s historical data. Review who spoke at the last few
events and whether they were well received. Then work out what you
can afford to pay, since cost might exclude certain speakers from
WHAT BUREAUS DO
Check that the speakers bureau you choose is affiliated with a
reputable association such as the Tempe, Ariz.-based National
Speakers Association (www.nsaspeaker.org).
According to Jim Montoya, a bureau’s expertise streamlines the
search process for planners by saving them time on securing names
and checking candidates’ area of expertise, fees and more.
Potential headaches are avoided in areas such as setting up
insurance policies and finding last-minute replacements.
Speaker bureaus are paid through a commission from the
presenter’s fee, so there is no initial outlay from the hiring
Most Web sites for bureaus, such the NSA, have online databases
that are searchable by speaker specialty or price range, and they
include short bios. Teresa Allen recommends using the search engine
of Boston-based AEI Speakers Bureau (www.aeispeakers.com),
which has a page devoted to speakers charging less than $5,000.
Even if a presenter has all the right credentials and falls
within budget, ask for videos for evaluation. If the speaker is
being booked as the keynoter for a national convention, ask for
references from prior clients. Trust your instincts if you feel
someone is either perfect or not quite right.
Note: Speakers who have a good reputation on the circuit are
always in demand. The earlier you start your search, the better
your chance of booking.
MORE FOR THE MONEY
When it comes to making the actual booking, it never hurts to
negotiate. Can a speaker do a keynote, a workshop and serve on a
panel? If the speaker charges a flat fee, then see if he is willing
to do more than one presentation. Ask if a video of the
presentation can be used by the organization at other events.
Make sure the speaker agreement includes the time, date and place
of the engagement and what is expected of the presenter at the
meeting. Also specify all negotiated items such as transportation,
accommodations, food and beverage expenses, and A/V requirements,
as well as cancellation or no-shows and payment policies.
Include what products the speaker might be permitted to sell at
the event and whether presentations can be taped and recorded for
sale or distribution.
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