by Morton D. Rosenbaum | November 01, 2005

The following checklist was compiled with the assistance of Brian Palmer, president of the National Speakers Bureau, 14047 W. Petronella Dr., Libertyville, Ill. 60048;

Determining Needs

  • What is the purpose of the event?
  • How should the presentation affect the audience? Should they be entertained, educated or motivated to sell?
  • What is the audience demographic? Consider economic background, age and gender.
  • Is there a theme to the meeting? Should the speech relate to or otherwise reinforce the theme? 
  • What other requests will you be making of the speaker? Should she be present for meals, golf, photo opportunities or autographs?
  • What speakers will work with your budget?
  • Making Contact

  • Ask for evidence of the speaker’s ability or style, e.g., a sample DVD and references.
  • If you’ll be requesting a customized speech, ask to see some key points. Don’t expect an entire transcript or video of the speech before the event. 
  • Discuss permission to videotape or record the presentation. 
  • Specify which costs will be reimbursed. Consider direct costs like hotel room, ground transportation and incidental expenses, as well as ancillary costs such as A/V or handouts. 
  • Make your conditions clear, giving equal emphasis to the points that matter to you and to your colleagues. For example: Should the speaker refrain from mentioning his books or other speaker-associated products?
  • Prepping the Speaker

  • Let the speaker know if there is a topic or theme you’d like her to address.
  • Give the speaker insight into what has worked well with the group in the past, as well as what presentations weren’t as well received.
  • Provide a specific time frame and indicate whether it will include a question-and-answer period. 
  • Tell the speaker how he was selected. This should give him insight into the group’s priorities and personalities.
  • Provide the speaker with the group’s name and size as well as some background information about the organization. 
  • Provide details about the audience. Are they a competitive sales group? Will they have been sitting through a day of seminars?
  • Let the speaker know the attendees’ special interests, as well as organizational taboos, which can be especially delicate if the audience will include international participants. 
  • Ask the speaker to enumerate what she needs to be successful for your event.
  • Closing the Deal

  • Make an offer with clear timetables and precise expectations of the speaker.
  • Provide the location, date of the event and time of speech.  Specify whether these details are subject to change.
  • If the speaker is needed for the whole day, including social functions, be sure to clarify verbally and in the contract. 
  • Ask about cancellation policies. Most speakers charge a penalty that can be reduced if the cancellation is an early one. 
  • Include an “acts of God” clause in the speaker’s contract.
  • If planning more than one meeting for which the speaker would be a good fit, ask for a package deal.
  • If the speaker is working at more than one session at the same event (e.g., as a keynoter and a workshop moderator), negotiate a lower fee for each.
  • In exchange for a reduced fee, offer free advertising in the event’s directory.