How to Choose a Speaker


Like choosing other professionals, selecting a speaker is left to your common sense. How long have they been speaking in professional environments? What is their promotional material like? Consider many of the items that follow, ask questions and use your best judgment!


You'll need to decide on the blend of entertainment value and meaningful message that you want for your program. You'll find speakers who range from 100% entertainment value to those who focus almost exclusively on content with little entertainment value. Often you can find the exact blend that you're looking for. For example, if you wanted 70% entertainment value and 30% motivational message, many professional speakers can tailor their talk to fit your needs.


a. The HUMORIST is someone who delivers humor with a message: Story, relevant point, story, relevant point. Professional humorists can normally blend their humor and message to fit your needs.
b. The MOTIVATIONAL SPEAKER provides an inspiring and uplifting program usually built around powerful stories, often personal experiences of the speaker. Most motivational speakers also use humor, but not to the extent that a humorist would.
c. The CELEBRITY SPEAKER may provide a name which will draw people to your event. Some celebrity speakers are terrific speakers and some are just average, but you're normally buying their fame and not their platform skills. Celebrity speakers normally have the highest fees.


There is normally a correlation between a speaker's fee and the quality of the program. You would never think that a $3000 car might be similar to a $30,000 car. Just the same, you wouldn't think that a $500 speaker might be similar to one who charges $5000. You normally get what you pay for. And consider this: You often pay many times more for the meal than for the speaker (on a per capita basis), when in fact the evening's program is probably far more important than the meal. Consider the true value-per-person-attending when deciding on your program investment.


A way to select a speaker is to request a press kit from every speaker you're considering and compare them. Normally, the more professional the press kit, the more professional the speaker. Press kits may include brochures, photos, articles, testimonials, client listings and more. The more professional the speaker, the more likely that an excellent press kit will be available. However, a slick press kit can never guarantee top-notch platform skills.


If the speaker has one, the web site will give you an instant "brochure" which may help you make a decision. This is especially valuable if your decision time frame is short. Speaker web sites may include audio clips and/ or video clips.


Testimonials may give you an indication of quality. You could ask for the names and phone numbers of three recent clients (who had the kind of program you need). Call them and ask questions. Read between the lines and listen for genuine enthusiasm in their voice when talking about their experience with the speaker.


Most professional speakers have demonstration tapes, either audio or video. Some speakers are starting to put their preview material on CDs. Also, some speakers offer streaming video footage over the Internet. The audio or video tape will never be YOUR exact program, but watch the tape for genuine audience response and speaking style. Look for a demonstration tape before a live audience with no canned laughter.


It might be possible to watch the speaker in a live performance before hiring. Although this is often not possible, you could ask. Most speakers will not "audition" for a single-date performance, but you might be able to attend someone else's program. This is probably the best way to really see the speaker's style and content.


How long has the speaker been in the business? Does the speaker speak full-time (earning a living as a speaker) or part-time (with a full-time day job)? These considerations may or may not have a great impact on the quality of the talk.


You should not expect to have problems with off-color material when using a professional speaker. If you have any subject material concerns, share them with your speaker.


While talking with the speaker, you may get a feel for his or her customisation skills. What kind of questions is the speaker asking YOU about the audience or organisational culture? Not every talk needs customisation but most professional speakers specialize in adding a personal touch.


Ask the speaker what you will need to provide at the meeting venue: Risers/platform, sound system, lighting, projection equipment etc. Many speakers will not speak from behind a lectern but prefer having an open platform from which to talk. Ensure that someone else, a band for example, does not set up in the space reserved for the speaker. Beware of tall centerpieces (balloons for example) as they will block the view of many in the audience.

by John Kinde of Humor Power

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