Every year in South Africa, there are well over 100 000 conferences that take place. That’s more than 300 conferences each and every day, 7 days a week. That is a very large number.
What To Call Them
There are many terms given to describe people who speak at conferences. It’s important to know what these terms are, because many people are using the internet to search for speakers. Here are some of the terms used: Conference Speaker / Keynote Speaker / Motivational Speaker / Inspirational Speaker / Guest Speaker / Public Speaker / Entertainer / Celebrity. Not all speakers use all of these terms on their websites, so using just one of these terms doesn’t mean you’ll get everyone returned in your search.
How to Find Them
A general rule of thumb is that all Speakers, Entertainers or Celebrities who have been in the industry for a while, and especially the more popular ones, will be represented by at least one Speaker Bureau. Speaker Bureau’s act as the ‘middle-man’ between yourself and a speaker. They will secure a date in their diary, and process the necessary agreements (in writing in the form of a contract) between yourself and the speaker and handle the transfer of money between all parties. Speaker Bureau’s make their money by taking a percentage of the speaker’s fee. The normal practice is that this fee comes out of the speaker’s fee and is not loaded on top of the invoice. So in theory, whether you approach the speaker directly or go through a Speaker Bureau, you should get quoted the same price.
If you don’t go through a Speaker Bureau’s, most speakers have a website and you can approach them directly. There are pros and cons to using either channel, and it mostly comes down to which one you are most comfortable with. Personally, I think that Speakers are practiced at speaking and Speaker Bureau’s are practiced in process and admin.
Speaker Ratings Who Should You Use
Unfortunately, in South Africa, there isn’t a central place where you can find out who the best speakers are in each topic or discipline. There are also just too many variables to consider. Are you looking for someone with more or less energy? More or less academic? Male or female? The same as last year or different? Old or young? Funny or serious?
Which speaker will be best for your conference is a little like trying to work out what flavour ice-cream will be best for a 4 year old’s birthday party?
Over time we have created two questions we ask a team of people planning a conference:
* Whose conference is it?
* What do you want to say?
Every conference is ‘owned’ by one person. It’s usually the boss. Once we discover whose conference it is, we ask them what they would like their people to walk away with? Conferences are critical in the yearly life-cycle of a company. They represent one event where an important group in the business get together, and you therefore want to make sure it counts.
Once you’ve put together a set of criteria you’d like to find in a speaker, begin asking people you know who have been to conferences recently. Of course Speaker Bureau’s make their money from knowing the answers to those questions as well.
Once you’ve short-listed your speakers, invite them to come in and chat to you in person. I’m amazed at how few companies do this. Conferences cost a lot of money and you’re going to trust a speaker to come in and talk to your people. My opinion is that you must meet them, tell them a little about your business and hear how they’re going to address your people? Once you’ve met with them you’ll be in a far better position to make a choice, and you’ll feel comfortable that they know what the conference is about.
We have never heard of a speaker who charges for a meeting like this, so it won’t cost you anything. Speakers are always in a better place to add value to a business when they have had a chance to meet with representatives of the business they are going to speak to.
Those are our four tips. Inviting someone into your business should be approached carefully and intentionally. Not taking the time to ensure you have the best people speaking to your business will never leave you feeling confident that you’ve done the best possible preparation in putting your conference together.
About the Author
Barrie Bramley is first and foremost a Keynote / Conference Speaker. Everything he does supports the presentations he delivers at the 100 odd conferences he speaks at every year. From research, to writing, to interviews, to creating presentations. Barrie specialises in presenting intelligently disruptive thoughts in a business context.