How to Find a Speaker 101

By Kimberley King

So. You got the email. The big team meeting is coming up and you are responsible for teeing up the keyonote. What?? You’ve never done this before. You just attend these meetings and marvel at the incredible talent on stage and all the details that are so seamlessly coordinated. Now you are in the drivers seat? Yup. And you are going to be fabulous! Just keep reading!

Let’s start with the basics.  What makes a speaker an expert? According to Malcolm Gladwell,  Canadian journalist, bestselling author, and speaker, one becomes an expert after 10,000 hours of practicing his or her craft. When searching for a speaker for your next event, be cautious of the self-proclaimed speakers, who may be good at what they do, but lack the experience and knowledge of the real expert you are paying for. Here are some tips on spotting a self-proclaimed expert from the real thing.

Staying Current.  When looking at a new speaker one of the first things that catches my eye is to see how current they are with their website and marketing materials. You want to have a sense that this speaker is ‘active’ and in continuous improvement mode. Yes, we all can fall down sometimes with keeping materials fresh. But when it comes to professional speakers, having an outdated head shot, super old video (to the point where you can spot the decade by the clothes they are wearing) or testimonials from 10 years ago sends a bad message. When you see a site that is fresh and well cared for– you feel more confident in digging deeper into the speaker and his/her messages.

Powerful Testimonials.  Carefully reviewing a speaker’s testimonials is a great way to check out a speaker. Research the feedback received and you will begin to see if the speaker engages his/her audience or not. I love to see very detailed testimonials that really demonstrate how enthusiastic and passionate the client is about the speaker. I know how hard it is to get a testimonial out of the most satisfied clients–people are busy! So when you see a good amount of high quality, thoughtful testimonials you know you are on a good track with the speaker. A testimonial for an expert speaker should be accompanied by a credible individual/company that experienced the speakers presentation. You can also ask to call one of these companies to provide a personal reference for the speaker.

Seeing is believing. Video is a great way to see what the speakers content and style is really about.  Search out as much video footage as you can on their site, as well as youTube.  Don’t just review the information they have sent you.  If they have been speaking for a while you will likely find all kinds of valuable references to their work, other conferences they have spoken at, articles they have written, etc. Speakers will often have a a couple of different styles of video on their sites.  It’s great seeing them “ live” and in action, but it’s also good to watch “to camera” clips that the speaker may have filmed of themselves talking about their expertise and how they approach a subject or a conference.  It’s not always easy for a speaker to get awesome footage in a large venue with perfect lighting… so I always look at the whole picture!

Getting Social.  Social media is another great place to get a sense of the speakers voice. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and others. Pay attention to how active the speaker is and what content he/she is putting out. An expert speaker is a professional in every part of his image, so look for content that is more than just personal posts. Look for solid content on topics, trends, events that are upcoming, and praise from other clients. And if they are really active- that can be a real plus if you want them to help get the word out about your event. #LoveMySpeaker

You charge how much??  Yeah. Let’s talk about speaker fees. They aren’t cheap. But quality never is. Right?  When you got to take your speaker options back to your boss or committee you’re going to want to have a good and confident sense of why these folks charge what they do.  The biggest thing you are paying for in a speaker is their EXPERTISE.  It’s not the amount of time on stage. It’s the experience that speaker has a subject matter expert and the time and energy they put into crafting their presentations.  And make no mistake, it’s an art form.  They are skilled, savvy,  informed, tuned into trends, have great inplatform skills, business owners in their own right and road warriors. (If you have spent any amount of time travelling you know it’s not a perk of the job!)

Great Conversations.  So if you have checked out a speaker and done your preliminary research and you are liking what you see, the next step is to have a chat with the speaker directly. Once we know that a speaker is available, their fees are within the budget, and they have the required expertise, we connect everyone together for a 30-60 min call. You can tell a lot from the call. The speakers, tone, confidence, knowledge of the subject and willingness to customize.  In addition to content you can openly discuss fees and what their travel expectations are. Always take the time to have a chat with your speaker before you sign off on the engagement.

It takes time to research and select the perfect speaker.  One of the benefits of working with a speakers bureau or agency is that we know our speakers and their strengths because of the relationship and the experience we have with them.  The internet delivers information. We deliver custom solutions to our clients’ challenges.