How to Choose and Hire a Speaker for Your Next Event

Whether you are looking for an enigmatic personality to inspire the membership at your big annual benefit or are just looking to inject some interest into your next monthly meeting, hiring an experienced and passionate speaker can be a great way to liven up your events. Monthly meetings and annual events can get stale by having the same agenda, same faces, same viewpoints. An effective speaker from outside your organization can bring a dose of renewed vigor and fresh ideas to your members as well as attracting better attendance and potential new recruits.

Choosing Your Topic

Think about the goals and challenges your organization and your members face. Is your membership aging and lacking in younger members? Survey the young members you do have and see what kind of speaker they’d be interested in.

Are many of your members dealing with family issues like child-rearing, work-life balance or end-of-life care for a loved one? Even if it is not a focus of your organization per se, it may be a valuable topic that would earn the gratitude of your attendees. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box here and survey your members and volunteers on topics that may interest them.

Related article: How to Avoid Volunteer Burnout

Where to find good speakers

Ask around within your own contacts. You may be surprised by who will have the perfect contact or suggestion. Also try some of the following:

  • Contact your local library. Ask for the person on staff in charge of adult programming. Libraries engage speakers on a variety of topics on a regular basis and will likely have some recommendations.
  • See if there is a professional association or even hobbyist group for the topic that you’d like to have featured at your meeting or event. They may have a list of speakers or at least some ideas.
  • Contact your local colleges to find professors who teach on your topic of interest to see if any of them would be interested in speaking.
  • Browse through the directories on the National Speakers Association website or SpeakerMatch. You can search on a variety of topics, see speaker qualifications and look for someone within your geographical range.

How to get the best deal for a speaker

There really is no standard speaking fee. It can range anywhere from no cost on up to hundreds of thousands of dollars depending on the qualifications and name recognition of a given speaker. But if you want to get a better deal, there are some things you can do.

  • If you have flexibility on scheduling, work with your chosen speaker to find a lower demand day and time. For some speakers, evenings and weekends may be better, for others, they may give better deals if they can speak during the day. Expect to pay more for a speaker on Irish history if you want to book them on St. Patrick’s Day, or to have a tax accountant come and speak in March or April.
  • If you are bringing your speaker in from out of town, see if you can connect with any other groups, libraries, schools, and so on that might be interested in booking this guest to speak the same day or the day before or after. Or find out if there is a day when they might already be passing through your area. If you can find a date when they may already be nearby or you can arrange to help them get multiple bookings on the same trip, you may be able to negotiate a better deal.
  • Does your speaker have merchandise like books or CDs that they might want to sell? You may be able to negotiate a discounted cost by allowing them to sell their products or their consulting services. You can also offer to promote them on your website and in social media, etc.

Other considerations when hiring a speaker:

Be sure to draw up a basic contract if your speaker doesn’t provide his or her own. Aside from payment terms, time, date, length of program and location, include any information about technical needs or other special considerations such as:

  • Do you have any special requirements for your speaker like staying after their talk for a meet and greet? Do they need to arrive early to set up? Any extra time commitments or expectations required of the speaker outside his or her specified speaking time should be spelled out in the contract.
  • If you are having your speaker present to a group that is larger than 50 people, you may need to have some amplification. Be sure to ask your speaker whether they will provide all the technical equipment they need such as microphone and speakers, projector, screen, etc. If you need to provide those, you may need to budget that into your cost and make arrangements to have it set up.
  • If you prefer that your speaker not promote their services or products, pass out business cards or otherwise engage in “selling tactics,” be sure to specify that in the contract.
  • If you will be live streaming the speech, taking photographs and/or video of the event, be sure to include in the contract that you will be doing so and that you reserve the right to use that footage.