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The Group Travel Leader Going on Faith Select Traveler

Hiring the right speaker

Betty Garrett,

The old adage “champagne taste on a beer income” applies when looking for the right speaker at the right price. Everyone wants name recognition, if not celebrity status, because the speaker can be a draw for attendance. But even if your budget excludes star power, a few simple steps can ensure you get the right speaker for your dollars.

Step One: Determining your meeting objectives is critical. If you do not know the goals, how can you meet them? Study the demographics of your group. Gender, average age and professional levels will help determine your choices. Share the demographics and objectives with the speaker.

Step Two: How much can the organization spend on a speaker? Think of things your organization or members can offer the speaker in addition to the fee. Here are some items to consider when bartering with your speaker:
•    Video taping
•    Selling their products
•    Letters of endorsements to other groups
•    Golf packages, spa packages, membership in the organization
•    List of attendees with addresses and email addresses
•    The opportunity to write an article for publication pre/post conference
•    A forum or informal chat with key decision-makers within your organization
•    Donation to his/her favorite charity

This list is limited only by your creativity. For a win-win, the organization must be willing to give something of value.

Step Three: Do your research. The right speakers can add sizzle to your meeting. So where to begin? Talk to your peers in other professional organizations; they can provide invaluable assistance. Develop a relationship with a speakers bureau; they can be helpful, too. The internet can be useful, but don’t use this avenue exclusively.

Interview speaker candidates. Get promo materials, references and certifications. If the speaker is not asking questions in return, look for someone who is more engaging and willing to partner. Beware of speakers who say they can speak on anything. The best speakers are experts, not jacks of all trades. Before making a final decision, get the candidate on a conference call with the final decision-maker and see how the speaker will customize remarks for your meeting. Listen to your intuition; it’s correct most of the time.

Step Four: Put everything in writing. Leave nothing to chance. Here are some items to include in your contract:
•    Program date, time, location, city
•    Length of presentation
•    Fee, expenses and payment schedule. Be specific
•    Audiovisual needs (equipment)
•    Deadlines for hand-outs, session descriptions, photos and bios
•    Cancellation clause (Specify what happens if the organization or the speaker cancels.)
•    Contact numbers (Emergency/on-site numbers/speaker’s cell number)

For this to be a partnership, your speaker will need from you:
•    Strengths and weaknesses of the organization
•    Key individual names and phone numbers
•    Expectations of your speaker
•    Printed conference materials
•    Speaker questionnaire returned in time for speaker to customize remarks

Speakers are one of the most important aspects of your meeting. Preparation will ensure all goes well.

Betty Garrett has spent more than three decades in the training, travel and hospitality industries. Her company, Garrett Speakers International, is based in Irving, Texas. Reach Garrett at