How to Find a Speaker for Your Next Meeting

By Heather Baldwin

If you’ve ever booked a speaker for your sales meeting, you know there are literally thousands out there to choose from. So how do you sift through all those names to find the right speaker, with the right combination of message and delivery skills, to spark an enthusiastic reaction from your meeting attendees? Esther Eagles, president of South Orange, NJ-based Eagles Talent (www.eaglestalent.com), a speakers and entertainment bureau, suggests sales managers ask the following questions to ensure they find a presenter who is a perfect fit for their meeting.

1. Is the message on target? Your chances for success multiply when you choose a speaker with an appropriate message. Unless your objective is solely to entertain, you should judge a speaker’s presentation by its ability to stimulate, provoke thought, inspire and motivate your group to action, not just by whether the audience will enjoy it.

2. Is the speaker an authority on his or her topic? If presenters aren’t subject matter experts, they aren’t likely to adequately inform, motivate, inspire or influence your audience. If the topic is success, the presenter needs to be an example of success. If the topic is leadership, the speaker needs to have been a leader.

3. What is the speaker’s delivery style? Remember: you’re not just buying a message, you’re also hiring the messenger. You want someone with both something to say and the ability to say it in an interesting, engaging manner. Keep in mind that fame doesn’t translate into an exciting, attention-getting presentation style. A best-selling author or superstar athlete might be hopelessly dull at the podium. Ask any potential presenters to send you a copy of their videotape so you can review it before making a decision.

4. Is the speaker dependable? The last thing you need is to be hassled with platform prima donnas, says Eagles. Presenters should forward biographies, photos, A/V and tech requirements, travel itineraries and so on in a timely manner. They also should promptly return phone calls. Eagles says she adheres to the maxim: When in doubt, leave them out. There are too many excellent and reliable speakers to put up with doubts about whether the presenter will show up on time, use good judgment in manners and so on.

5. What is the speaker’s track record? Consistently good results are always the best credentials. A presenter should have an excellent reputation and verifiable references, which you should check before signing a contract. Also call other meeting planners who have previously used the speaker. If possible, preview him or her at a live presentation.

6. How did you feel after the telephone interview? Unless you’re hiring a celebrity speaker who probably won’t be available for a phone interview before the presentation, ensure you spend some time on the phone getting to know the speaker’s communication style, vibrancy of speech, personality and understanding of your organization, audience and objectives.