Tag Archives: Customization

How to Select a Professional Speaker for Your Next Conference, Convention or Sales Meeting

Selecting the right presenters can make or break your event.

The good ones see themselves as part of the larger team, and will share their wealth of experience to insure your overall success. The bad ones see themselves as the star-of-the-show, with little consideration for the needs of other (often non-professional) speakers on the program. Use these 10 guidelines to screen the mountain of material that your speakers or their bureaus will send you.


A professional speaker should engage, educate, motivate, and entertain, and in that order of priority. Unless this event changes your peoples’ behavior in some measurable way, you’re wasting their time and your money. New skills, new information, and new insights produce new customers, new sales, and increased profits.


Wouldn’t you rather take advice from a published expert, who has invested the time and effort to thoroughly research their field and write a book, or two, or three? Ask for autographed copies. And beware of vanity press imprints. If a major New York house published their books, you know they’re the real deal.


Beginners often pirate others’ examples and content, sometimes even telling a story as if it had actually happened to them. I recently heard a meeting planner complain, “If I hear one more cliché out of this guy I will scream.” If you’ve heard it before, so have your people.


Are you looking for an academic expert (who may put your people to sleep) or a stand-up comic (whose act could play a nightclub)? Don’t settle. Look for a pro who can engage AND entertain, delivering powerful content with passion and pizzazz. After all, you want your people to remember the point, not just the punch line.


If a speaker is going to presume to tell you how to run your business better, they better understand your business. Select a speaker who will take a personal interest in your industry, your company, and your people. Will they visit your office, review your collateral material, shop your competition, or spend a day riding with your salespeople? Will they fly in early to attend the whole conference? An outsider’s insight may prove priceless. A real pro is a quick study, and will customize until they sound like they’re from home office.


There are two conferred by the National Speakers Association: the Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) and the Council of Peers Award of Excellence (CPAE). The CPAE is an honorary designation, a lifetime achievement award, while the CSP requires a minimum of 250 presentations over a five-year period, for at least 100 different clients, at a substantial minimum fee, and must be renewed every five years. The CSP is your assurance of the highest standards of professionalism and excellence. An elite group of veterans hold both.

Technical Mastery

The days when a speaker could stand behind a podium and just read from notes are long gone. Top pros supercharge their speeches with multiple multi-media: computer animation, upbeat music, sound effects and video. And they bring their own computers, projectors and microphones. (BTW, this can save you a bundle!) After all, when take your car to a mechanic, don’t you expect them to use their own tools?


Does a live person answer the phone when you call? Successful speakers travel constantly, but are always accessible through their staff. They use cell phones, voice-mail and e-mail to keep in touch. The real pros check both at least twice a day, and respond promptly, personally.


They did include a video didn’t they? The pros all have at least one; or two, or more. Ask for the what-you-see-is-what-you-get version, shot live, unedited (except perhaps for opening trailers). And while the WYSIWYG take may be technically flawed, anyone can look good in front of a studio full of friends.


Are they coming to your area? The pros get around, and will gladly arrange for you to sit in. If that’s not an option, interview them by phone. Think of it as a live one-on-one audition. Ask them to advise you on a particular challenge or business issue, then ask yourself, “Does this sound like the kind of advice we want our people to hear?”


You should never have to ask for them. A professional will automatically include them in the press kit, along with a client list and multiple testimonials. Read the letters. Look at the dates; are they current? Check references on their LinkedIn profile as well. Then call at least two.


What will your people take away to help them recall and implement what they’ve heard? Can your speaker provide a textbook, a workbook, a cassette or two, an action list, a checklist, a laminated wallet card, or a free web e-zine. Some of these “extras” should be included in the fee. Can they post their handouts and PowerPoint slides on a web site for download? Ask. These minor extras add major impact and multiply the take-home value of the message.


Worry less on what the speaker will charge; worry more on what your people will get. Does the fee include pre-event consultation, research, customization, travel time, travel expenses, handouts, workbooks, AV equipment, pens, markers or other supplies? A bad program is no bargain. If you’re investing half a million dollars to host a conference, you can’t afford a dud.

On the other hand, most pros will leverage their preparation by doing multiple programs. Stretch your speaker budget by asking for combined fees for a keynote, plus multiple breakout sessions, VIP receptions, panel discussions, etc.