Finding the right speaker for your next event & why research is crucial
We’ve got some good news, and some bad news.
We are optimists, so we’re going to start with the good news first.
When it comes to choosing the right speaker for your event, the amount of research you do on your speaker will have an enormous effect on the probability you will pick the right person.
The bad news is that there is no amount of research that can guarantee the success of your event.
We are in the business of helping you find the right speaker for your events, by making sure that you have access to an ever-growing quantity of speakers who can talk about very specific topics, while giving you the tools to directly evaluate their credits and speaking skills.
Whether they are going to be the right fit for your event, however, is going to take a bit of research.
This guide will show you what kinds of things you should be looking at and for, and how you can use SpeakerHub to find the right speaker.
TOP TIP: Always build in a healthy block of time into your event planning schedule to do your speaker research; one hour probably won’t be enough. You’re going to do a lot of reading, investigating and watching, make sure you count on having enough time to do it right.
1. Build a big list of potential speakers
When it comes to finding speakers, there are many resources to use. From personal recommendations, to Google, to agencies.
And, of course, SpeakerHub.
The main reason SpeakerHub was created was to help event organizers do their research. Just having a list of potential speaker names is insufficient to make a choice: you need to see them, read about them, and get a feel for how well they know your topic.
Read the news and magazines for local or national movers and shakers, look in journals and reports from your industry, watch online videos related to the topic of your event. Keep a sharp eye out for potential candidates, and note their names for future reference.
Ask for recommendations. Think broadly here: ask for suggestions from people both inside and outside your industry and focus on the topic at hand. Is it your event about mother who’ve launched a startup? Ask business venture capital firms as much as you’d ask women’s associations. Ask people who will be attending the event. Try and ask a diverse group of people and then add their suggestions to the list of speakers to research.
This being said, never rely 100% on someone’s suggestion: make sure you still research and talk to the speaker before settling on anything.
Should you use an agency?
You may choose to work with a speaker’s agency. Agencies will help you identify the most appropriate speakers for your event, and they have an invested interest in your the success: if the speaker flops, it is their reputation on the line.
Make sure to ask about their speaker selection criteria. Also, make sure your budget and includes the agency’s fees– the general rate is 15-20% of the speaker’s fee, and even though this is covered by the speaker, it is ultimately factored into the fee you pay.
Once you have a large list of potential speakers you would like to know more about, it is time to start watching, reading and doing some quality checks.
2. First, watch their videos
When you visit a speaker’s profile, whether on SpeakerHub, an agency website, their own personal site or elsewhere, look first for their videos.
You’ll quickly be able to see how well they know their subject matter, their expertise, and to what extent do they control the stage and are able to convey their message.
“Hiring an event speaker without seeing them in action is like buying a car sight-unseen [i.e. without seeing it first] … you just don’t do it unless you have an unquenchable thirst for tempting fate.”
-Jeff Kear, co-owner at Planning Pod
Here is a shortlist of what to look for:
- Clarity and tone
- Charisma and/or the ability to inspire
The best videos are the ones where the speaker is in front of a live audience.
If you’ve found one of these videos, check out the audience: how big is the crowd? Do they look engaged? Are they smiling and laughing, or do they look slackjawed and bored out of their minds? Use the audience as a litmus test for how engaging the speaker is.
If the speaker doesn’t have any examples of their talks online, try your best to have a video chat with them or meet them in person.
An alternative to videos is a podcast or interview recording, which often reveals just as much about their speaking skills as a video.
3. Read their content and check out their slides
So, you’ve found a person who has got the right tone and good presence.
Now it’s time to dig a little deeper into their content.
See if they have written articles that you can read online. Most speakers will add links directly to their speaker profile or website, but if you cannot find any there, try Googling their name and just see what is being written about them.
When reading through their articles, don’t just focus on their expertise (although this is important,)f make sure you like their style and the way they’ve presented the information.
Check out their slides and the way they visually present their content. Take a look through their presentations and make sure you like their style.
If it doesn’t appeal to you, or more importantly, you don’t think it would appeal to your audience, make a note of it, although it doesn’t necessarily need to be a deal breaker: if you are going to shortlist them as a potential speaker, you can talk to them about changing up the style.
4. Do a quality check
When it comes to verifying the quality of the speaker, check these three things:
- Do they come recommended by someone from your network?
If they have come suggested by someone who knows what you are looking for, let this have a fair bit of sway in your decision making.
If anything you’ve watched or read has left you feeling uneasy, consider going back to the person who made the recommendation and asking for clarification.
- Have they had repeat bookings?
If a speaker has been invited back to talk at the same organization more than once, this is a great indication that they are a high quality speaker. If the organization is within your field or industry, this is even better.
If you cannot directly see from their website, consider asking this as a question when you directly contact them.
- Do they have glowing testimonials?
Do they have a plethora of positive testimonials to choose from? Look for evidence of a diverse group of satisfied, previous event organizers.
Also make sure you check who is giving the reference, and whether you believe that person has credibility or is from your industry.
When reading a reference, try and focus on the outcomes of the talk, not just the colourful adjectives used to describe the speaker.
Once you’ve done this research, you will have probably narrowed down the list of potential candidate to a small handful. The next part is contacting the speakers. On SpeakerHub, we make this really easy: all you have to do is press the “Contact” button and set a date with them for a chat.
Although the work isn’t over at this stage, you’ll need to work out the schedule, sign the contracts, rehearse and revise the talk and arranging all the finer details, but once you’ve done the research, you’ll be on the right track.
Are you ready to start researching now? Get started by searching our database of speakers here.