Finding the Right Speaker for Your Meeting

By Lain Ehmann

Looking for the best speaker can be the toughest part of planning your meeting. Here are some quick tips for finding the right person for the job.

  Figure out the needs of you and your audience. Your audience might want to be entertained, but you need to convey volumes of information. Or conversely, you might want to lighten things up and don’t care too much about what the speaker says provided he or she gets everyone laughing. Know and rank your priorities so you can identify and convey to the speaker what’s most important.

  Determine your parameters. When, where and how much are you willing to pay are all questions that can help narrow your search. You don’t necessarily have to pay an arm and a leg for a speaker. Speakers Unlimited ( offers speakers for as little as $500.

  Hammer out the details. When contacting a particular speaker or a referral organization for speaker suggestions, the American Speakers Bureau suggests having the following details on hand: date, location, type of meeting, number and type of speeches (keynote, training, breakout, wrap-up and so on), audience size, demographics, preferred topics and specific goals and objectives.

  Create a list of possibilities. Ask friends and co-workers for recommendations and perform online searches. Here are a few other sources: Expert Magazine ( offers a host of articles on business and personal development and a searchable database of experts. The National Speakers Association (NSA) (, the leading organization for those who speak professionally, provides a database of more than 4,000 speakers searchable by location, topic and so on. The American Speakers Bureau ( also offers an online database that is searchable by name and topic. Sales Training Speakers ( specializes in – you guessed it! – sales training speakers and offers a free consultation to help determine your needs.

  Interview your candidates. Just as you wouldn’t sign on new employees without meeting them first, don’t hire speakers without putting them through their paces. That means taking the time to review their sample tapes and asking for – and calling – their references. You also might want to have some of your attendees assist in the evaluation process.

  Put together a letter of agreement. NSA offers sample agreements that cover everything from fees to cancellation policies. Write down all the specifics to avoid any misunderstandings.

  Get feedback from your audience. Find out how well your speaker met your goals by asking your attendees to rate his or her performance. Also, ask for suggestions about topics to address and styles of speaker for future meetings.