How to Maximize your RSP (Return on Speakers)

By Kimberley King

If you are working on your 2018/2019 budgets and thinking ahead to the strategic meetings and conferences that are on the planning table, you are likely thinking about all the ways you can stretch your meeting dollar.  We see clients working hard to negotiate the best contracts with hotels, reviewing F&B budgets, scrutinizing AV orders, but not necessarily taking a look at speaker budgets.  This is an area that deserves some exploration!

It comes as no surprise that companies and planners will have a harder time staying within budget. According to Meeting Professionals International’s “Meetings Outlook” report which surveys planners and supplier globally, we have seen increases of 3-4 % in many of the costs areas, whereas meeting budgets have only increased 1.7 %.

 Speakers are significant contributors to success of the meeting outcomes.   They are the heart of the meeting.

Consider the proportion of speaker fee to overall event expenses.  Some meetings invest more on table decorations, F&B, incentives and giveaways than on content rich keynotes and workshops.   I’ve seen several conferences, over the years where the organizers decided to scale back on quality of speakers going with either lower-paid or industry speakers. What followed was poor quality sessions, reduced participation and engagement lower attendance. Lower attendance at conventions can huge losses in revenue, and membership, which can further lead to attrition from the association.

So how can you maximize your RSP?  (Return on Speaker Fees)    Use your speaker creatively and engage them in the design of the conference!


In the past 5-7 years we have seen a massive ‘wait and see’ attitude with clients engaging speakers a few short months and even weeks out before an event.  It best to start the booking process earlier to engage the speaker in the agenda design.

Think about the expertise of your speaker. Yes, the stage is where they shine, but think about the hundreds and hundreds of conferences and events they have attended.  They have seen it all!  They can help with suggesting creative meeting themes and also recommend best times for their sessions.

Can your speaker’s name help with a sponsorship pitch?  We have lots of clients who actively seek out their preferred speaker, and then have to go find sponsorship dollars  to make it work.  Some speakers are open to shooting a short 60 second video that can be sent to potential attendees to get momentum and engagement prior to  the event—this is a great place to thank sponsors for making the engagement possible.

Great speakers want get to know their audiences and make a real impact. Use this to your advantage.  We are also seeing clients take us up more on getting our speakers to help engage in social media prior to and during the event. This past year we even saw this written into a contract to tweet prior to and during an event!


Many speakers are willing to combine a keynote with additional services to add value.  An opening keynote and a breakout session scheduled close together is a value add that many people over look.

Even if the speaker charges more for the extra services, there can be significant savings in travel and fees.  Consider working in collaboration with another like minded event to book the same speaker for multiple engagements.

Have the speaker perform multiple roles like hosting an opening night dinner, or interviewing executives, or facilitating a panel.  Every speaker  is different and will have a different skill set, but make sure you don’t miss out on the opportunity to leverage these skills.


Many speakers offer some pretty incredible follow up tools to audiences they have spoken to.  Attendees can join their email  lists, they can sign up for free post event webinars, or valuable new goal check-ins 30 days following the event. We all focus so much on event day, but a little planning and prep in advance will help you  re-kindle the excitement of the event and keep the afterglow even longer!