Tips for Speaker Seekers

Help for meeting planners and resources for finding speakers.

As a busy meeting planner, with the usual overload of demands on getting your next event launched flawlessly, the last problem you want to have is for your keynote speaker to disappear off the radar screen. Whatever the reason — flu bug, scheduling glitch, bad travel karma — you’re skewered! Call in back-up from your Association? Good luck — internal bench strength is not going to get the job done when you’re expected to deliver nationally-recognized, high-performance event headliners.

Well, my friends, if you’ll read on, you’ll find that you need not wake up in a cold sweat from this bad dream. The professional speaking community is not only very well organized, but also quite sophisticated in responding to your last minute or long-range quest for high-quality speakers.

First, let’s start with what is, in my view, one of the top resources for the best speakers: the National Speakers Association. Perhaps this may appear biased – since I am honored to be a past president of this organization – but their Meeting Planners Guide to Professional Speakers is a terrific tool for meeting planners seeking access to the nation’s leading presenters. It is an annual 400-plus page directory which lists over 4,000 speakers and is cross-referenced alphabetically and by topic and geographical location. NSA can be reached by calling (480) 968-2552 or visiting their Website at www.nsaspeaker.org.

If you haven’t yet fully explored the Internet, you’re in for a treat. This is such a rich lode for mining top performers, good advice and subject area expertise, that once you start using this tool for meeting planning support, you’ll wonder why you waited so long to access the Web.

I also invite you to visit my own Website, www.fripp.com. for a wide menu of tools and accessories to make life easier and more productive for meeting planners. I am always responsive to your comments or queries, especially if I can help you eliminate those “missing speaker nightmares.”

Here are a few other speaker-search suggestions to expedite your research process:

  • Attend Speakers Showcase events, gaining concentrated exposure to the skills and styles of a large selection of speakers at the same time.
  • Contact those well-received speakers you had in the past and seek their high caliber referrals. Many of these top speakers are in mini-groups and can refer each other, combine their efforts for group marketing and even author books together. (The group I belong to has 22 mutually-supportive speakers who are able to fill in for our fellow members even at the last minute – e-mailing our speaking notes to each other to assure continuity). We are called Speakers Roundtable. Many past presidents of National Speakers Association are part of it.
  • Check out speaker bureaus for convenient booking assistance. I suggest speaker bureaus who are members of the NSA as they live by a high code of ethics.
  • Ask speakers who they can recommend.
  • Don’t overlook bringing back your most popular speakers. Most seasoned presenters have more than one talk and do well when welcomed back to a familiar and friendly setting. (One association with which I have developed a great relationship, has been bringing me back in various roles for 14 years on a regular basis. Their Association Executive says he can sleep better at night knowing he does not have to worry about the performance of his keynoter).
  • More about the NSA… This is where the professionals congregate and they have established standards for classifying their experienced speakers’ experience and this serves as helpful selection criteria for you. Their designations are Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) and Council of Peers Award for Excellence (CPAE). The CSP is awarded for extended speaking experience and satisfaction. The CPAE is an award for platform excellence granted to no more than 5 speakers annually.

Regardless of from where you may recruit a speaker, my advice is that to minimize your risk and increase your success potential always go with a professional. Professional speakers understand that your reputation is riding on their performance. Their experience with hundreds of audiences and the endless subtleties of producing a great presentation can provide great peace of mind for the discerning meeting planner.