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The Insider’s Guide to Working With Speakers

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Want to bring a speaker to your organization to entertain, educate, or inspire your audience? Here are some insider tips for making the process as smooth as possible.

Before we get started, let’s be clear: these are things professional speakers wish you knew. Most people who work in the field do dozens if not hundreds of presentations a year. But event planners often only put together one or two events in that same time period. Speakers know this business, but they are the vendors, not the customer.

Second: it doesn’t matter what kind of event you’re doing: keynote for a large conference, a training for a small office, an after-hours panel discussion, or an entertainer for the company holiday party. In all cases, it’s easier to work with speakers if you follow these suggestions.

And finally, there are some tips that go without saying. Talk to your speaker as far in advance as possible. Keep them posted about changes. Get contracts hammered out in advance. But you knew all that stuff. Ready to get started with stuff you might not know?

Speaker at the Podium

© Flickr user Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung

Be Honest About Compensation

Time to rip off the bandage. The toughest question for speakers—as well as writers, artists, musicians, and anyone else who produces work for public consumption—is about making sure they get paid. Every time someone calls us to book one of our associates, we eventually have to talk about the realities of speaker compensation.

If you have no budget, say so up front. That doesn’t mean you can’t find someone, but it does affect who you will be able to find. Speakers make their living from giving presentations and consulting with clients, so it only makes sense that most of the time they will need to be paid. But if you have no budget and the person who you want can’t help you, maybe they can refer you to someone else. Or, maybe that’s just what you need to convince your organization to put some money in the budget.

Explain the Format of the Event in Detail

The best presentations start with preparation. Send your speaker your agenda as soon as possible, even if it’s only tentative. There are few things more challenging than finding out you have 20 minutes instead of an hour, or asking participants to move around the room…during a dinner service.

If you know who else will be at the event, if you can give the size of the audience, if you can predict the mood of the people in the room—these are all details to pass along to your speakers. The less surprised they can be when they arrive, the better the experience will be for your attendees.

Describe the Layout of the Venue (with Pictures)

These days, it’s easy enough to take some quick snapshots of the room and send them off via email. Questions like the availability of a screen and a projector for slides, amplification options, seating choices, lighting, flip charts, and more will become immediately apparent. You’re also giving your presenter the chance to visualize themselves in the space. That will help them be even more effective.

And of course, speakers may actually know the venues already. We’re often invited to present in places where we have been before. We may even know the on-site staff and the quirks of that location. So, let your speaker know what you know about the venue, and let them know right away!

Say Why You Want Them

This is a final tip that is about more than ego. If you saw them present elsewhere, let them know where it was and what they said. If they came recommended, or if you’ve spent time on their website, share what you learned. The context of why they were chosen matters.

And again, this isn’t about increasing speaker confidence, but about better tailoring the program to meet your expectations. You’re not looking to hire any speaker but instead an excellent speaker. Tell them why you want them, and they will continue to adapt to your needs.

Now That You Know, What’s Next?

If you’re ready to hire a speaker, contact us. Or if you just have questions, reach out. We want to create great experiences for your audiences. Help us to help you!

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Robby Slaughter
Robby Slaughter is a workflow and productivity expert. He is a nationally known speaker on topics related to personal productivity, corporate efficiency and employee engagement. Robby is the founder of AccelaWork, a company which provides speakers and consultants to a wide variety of organizations, including Fortune 500 companies, regional non-profits, small businesses and individual entrepreneurs. Robby has written numerous articles for national magazines and has over one hundred published pieces. He is also the author of several books, including Failure: The Secret to Success. He has also been interviewed by international news outlets including the Wall Street Journal. Robby’s newest book is The Battle For Your Email Inbox.
Robby Slaughter


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