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To get the best deal, understand what speakers want

Ed Rigsbee with

Sure, you want the best possible speaker for whatever your budget might be. A dynamic or informative speaker generally is a stellar investment for the success of your meeting. But sometimes your budget is not enough for the speaker you want. What’s the solution? Hire a less- expensive speaker? Squeeze the speaker you want for a better price? Think beyond conventional wisdom?

One way to think beyond conventional wisdom is to limit the number of speakers at your meeting. It is always less expensive to have a single speaker do several sessions than to have several speakers each present a single session.

Sometimes it costs less to hire a speaker to deliver multiple programs than to have several nonpaid speakers participate in your meeting. Even if these unpaid speakers drive in, eliminating the expense of airline travel, they will still want a free hotel room for the conference and free registration. Perhaps they were going to come anyway? You would have then received their conference registration dollars. The true cost of nonpaid speakers can be hidden.

The big difference between a professional speaker who presents the same program multiple times versus presenting multiple programs is preparation time. Unfortunately, few meeting planners take this key time issue into consideration. Speakers are selling both their knowledge and their time. The latter is finite, so the more you consume, the more you should expect to pay. In paying for a speaker’s time, you have to consider presentation time, travel time and preparation time. Of course, if you want a canned speech the preparation time is not an issue. Before you jump on the cost savings of a canned speech, remember that today, few attendees will tolerate a canned speech.

This idea of a single speaker presenting multiple presentations for a single fee is growing in the world of professional speakers, but is counter to standard operating procedures for most speaker bureaus. If you like this idea, you might have to abandon the ease in speaker selection that you have enjoyed when working with bureaus.

The Bureau Conundrum

Speaker bureaus provide a valuable outsource service for meeting planners who are time squeezed. A planner can contact a bureau, provide their budget and the bureau will take it from there. Bureaus can be a solution for planners who have to fill a large number of conference session slots and do not have sufficient staff. Yet, there are many more speakers who are underrepresented or not represented by speakers bureaus. Most bureaus only have a small corral of speakers that they can easily sell and therefore will generally recommend them first. Many underrepresented speakers are quite good and are a tremendous value.

The conventional marketing message espoused by most bureaus is that for speaker X, you’ll pay the same price through us as you would booking speaker X direct. That frequently may be true. Yet, in a supply chain where a distributor or manufacturer’s representative sales agency receives 25 to 30 percent, the reality is generally not quite the ideal. There was a reason Sam Walton championed the idea of Walmart working directly with manufacturers, thereby eliminating the distributors. This strategy allowed him to continually deliver low prices to his Walmart customers.

Go Direct?
If you choose to work directly with a speaker, the price you will pay is time. Time for the search and selection process as well as time to work with the speaker on meeting logistics. If this route is best for you, there are a number of advantages that could make your time investment a profitable one. Some of the benefits could be (1) no lost communication through an intermediary; (2) better negotiation possibilities (the Sam Walton dynamic) and (3) the speaker offering programming ideas and insight that most likely would have never been transmitted through a third party.

Searching for a speaker directly has never been easier. To start, there are Internet search engines that will do a magnificent job for a speaker by topic or keyword. Remember to look past the first search page because that is most likely where you are going to find the speaker bargains. A great source to aid your search is the National Speakers Association (NSA) website.