Find A Speaker
Will your next Meeting, Conference or Gathering be an Unforgettable Experience for you and your attendees?
If you tap into the talent, energy and enthusiasm of the region’s largest group of experts that speak professionally, the answer will be a resounding YES!
Please take the opportunity to browse our directory and find the speakers who will meet your needs and exceed your organization’s meeting objectives.
You may also send an RFP or e-mail from this site to our chapter administrator who will forward it on to several qualified speakers based upon your specific requirements.
Let NSA New England, the regional chapter of the National Speakers Association, meet your organization’s needs for experts that speak professionally. Our members understand the investment, details and commitment associated with planning an event and we want to ensure that your goals and objectives are achieved.
NSA New England
Chapter Administrator: Donna Powell
Phone: (978) 692-0905
The most important element in a successful meeting is finding the right speaker. This page walks you through the process.
Meeting planning has become a complex mission. Site selection, appetizing meals, an efficient registration desk, enticing social functions, spirited interaction among the group — all these elements are important to the success of a meeting.
A common lament of the harassed meeting planner is, “Everyone thinks it’s so easy. No one has any idea of the skills it takes to pull off a successful meeting.”
Many believe that selecting speakers is easy, too. Won’t the audience be drawn to a celebrity? Most certainly, if that celebrity has good platform skills and delivers more than a book report. But, as the meeting planner, your professional reputation is at stake, just as much as the speaker’s.
What makes a meeting most memorable?
Remember when the keynote speaker bombed? Did you ever hear the end of it? But when the speaker got the group excited about the meeting, or made everyone laugh following the awards program (even those who didn’t get the awards), or sent everyone home with a new commitment to professionalism — didn’t you also hear about that for months? The experiences we have that cause us to learn stay with us far longer than the memory of a good theme, a fabulous meal, or fancy decor.
OK, you’ve accepted the fact that selecting good speakers might very well be the most important element of a successful meeting. How do you begin?
What do you need?
First, decide the goal or purpose of your meeting. Is your meeting primarily an educational session? Are you looking for light entertainment, or an inspiring motivational charge? Think about how the speaker will fit in with your group. A “big name” speaker doesn’t guarantee a professional presentation. On the other hand, a professional speaker — an individual who earns a living on the platform — brings a wealth of experience that can make your meeting a resounding success.
Choose the right amount of time. The speaker can tell you the optimum time frame for the job you want done. Consider the strength, topic, and style of the various speakers on a multiple speaker program. An outstanding opening speaker will carry your meeting through the first couple of days. Don’t follow a humorist with a low-key educational presentation even though the speaker is equally professional.
Be sure to close with an uplifting, inspiring message that leaves your group with the desire to return next year.
Why use a professional speaker?
Getting value for your dollar is an important factor in any business. The professional speaker allows you to predict that value in advance of your meeting by providing:
- Support material that lets you know on what subjects he or she speaks, types of programs, and in what format — seminar, keynote, general session, luncheon or banquet, breakout sessions, etc.
- References you can check. When you check the references, ask about the kind of group. What were their needs? Were they met? How effective was the message?
- An audition audio or video tape, or an invitation to see him/her in action on the platform.
- Personalization… he or she learns about your group, about your objectives, and about your specific needs, and then customizes his or her presentation in content, format, and length.
What does this mean to you? You know in advance exactly what you’re getting for your money.
Criteria for selecting a speaker
First, the speaker’s credentials are important to you and to your group. You have a background on which you can rely and impressive credentials can build your meeting attendance. Such credentials are education, experience, or awards and certifications. The National Speakers Association has both an awards and a certification program. In the profession of speaking, the initials CPAE and CSP really mean something to you. The CPAE (Council of Peers Award of Excellence) is an award granted by the National Speakers Association for speaking skills and professionalism. Only five are awarded each year. The CSP (Certified Speaking Professional) is a designation of achievement through proven experience. It requires a minimum of five years of professional speaking experience and at least 250 presentations for no fewer than 100 clients. And the Cavett Award, named for our Chairman Emeritus, Cavett Robert, is bestowed annually. The Cavett is awarded not necessarily for speaking skills but for the recipient’s contributions to NSA and the profession of speaking.
The speaker’s expertise in a given field may be the big draw, too, but domain expertise doesn’t automatically make that person an expert presenter.
The content of a speaker’s presentation is of great importance. Does your meeting require that the audience leave with specific or technical information, or do you need someone to motivate the group to sell? Thorough knowledge of the needs of your group is essential in selecting the right speaker to meet those needs.
Hiring the right speaker is much the same thing as hiring a good employee. The traits and characteristics which spell success in one situation can mean disaster in another, no matter what credentials the speaker may possess. Would you want the same qualities in a marketing representative as in a computer analyst? Likewise, the skills of a motivator are far different from those you’d seek for a technical presentation.
The lesson is the same when finding the right speaker for your meeting. Check references. Find out what group the speaker has addressed that is similar to yours. In fact, get the names of several. And when you ask about the speaker’s effectiveness, be sure you’ve determined that your situation is similar. The effort is well worth it as you approach your meeting with the confidence that — as in all other details of your meeting arrangements — you’ve done the homework that assures success.
What sources are there for professional speakers?
One of the best is personal referrals. Others who plan meetings are a valuable resource for recommendations and ideas. (Just be sure your needs are the same if you accept a recommendation as gospel!) Professional speakers who have done a good job for you know others who would do well for your group.
As for using a speakers bureau, their top priority is to place the right speaker for your meeting. After all, their success is dependent on repeat business. The bureau can be especially helpful if you need suggestions on speakers to handle specific topics or sessions. A reputable bureau and the speaker usually quote the same fee. If a substitute speaker were required due to an emergency situation, your bureau is a ready source. In most cases, personnel of the bureau are personally familiar with the speaker including his or her major strengths and audience appeal.
The National Speakers Association is not a bureau. It does not recommend speakers or arrange speaking engagements. However, NSA bureau members have developed their own set of professional standards for the conduct of their businesses. A list of these standards and our bureau members is available on request.
How fees are determined?
While a speaker can be worth his or her weight in gold, no one wants to pay fees on that basis. As in any business, supply and demand establishes a speaker’s worth in the marketplace. A speaker can be in only one place at a time. As the demand for his or her talents results in a full calendar, fees escalate. It’s a fact of the marketplace.
Remember, you’re not paying only for the hours the speaker is on the platform for your group. Built into the fee are the hours spent on researching the talk, improving, updating, and custom-designing the speech for your group — not to mention travel time.
Sometimes you need to negotiate just to attract a heavily booked speaker — one whose fee is set because he or she can choose between several engagements. And other times, your budget just isn’t all you hoped.
Here are a few hints to help you get what you want:
- Work preferences of the speaker may give you some opportunity to negotiate. Some speakers limit the locations of where they speak, or perhaps they work only certain days of the week. If your meeting is close to the speaker’s home base, it’s a far more attractive arrangement to the speaker than a flight.
- Consider scheduling the speaker when he or she is working with another client in your geographic area. Travel expenses can then be shared.
- Have the speaker do more than one program for you. You may want to follow the keynote with a breakout session using the same speaker. The fee won’t come close to the cost of two speakers, plus you’ll save on travel expenses.
- If speaking for your group serves as a good showcase of that speaker’s talent to others who hire speakers, he or she may negotiate the fee.
- The speaker may negotiate if he or she is allowed to sell products (audio, videotapes, books, etc) from the platform.
Agreement on terms.
You should have a letter of agreement. Find out the speaker’s exact arrival and departure times. Top professional speakers make every effort to schedule so there is at least one “cushion” flight available in the event of delays. There is nothing more unsettling than being ready to roll not knowing the whereabouts of your speaker!
Be sure that the agreement concerning expenses is clear with politicians or celebrity speakers that expect to bring their spouse or an aide. If a second party is involved, be sure there is an understanding about their lodging and food reimbursement. If you’re not handling the lodging for the speaker, be sure there is an understanding regarding the price of accommodations.
If you’ve retained your speaker long enough in advance, there are sometimes opportunities for the speaker to arrange other engagements near your meeting site which can offer you a substantial savings through proration of the transportation cost. Such arrangements should be confirmed.
If you’re planning for the speaker to attend social events before or after the presentation, be sure the speaker is aware of this well in advance. In many cases, the speaker spends those final hours in preparation to have the right mindset for your meeting. Speakers are usually happy to attend extra events if given sufficient notice. Be aware, however, that some speakers prefer not to attend social events.
Be sure to obtain the speaker’s photograph and biographical information so that your publications may present thorough information early, as an attendance-building device. And send the speaker as much information as possible about your organization including company newsletters, annual reports, and any relevant meeting bulletins. Be sure that you send the speaker copies of any material mentioning his or her presentation.
Many speakers and seminar leaders have written books and produced cassette tapes of their various programs. Be sure you have a mutual understanding regarding what promotion of their materials are allowed. A speaker usually appreciates the availability of the products being mentioned by someone from your organization at the conclusion of the presentation. Since this can be a delicate matter, do not treat it lightly during your final arrangements with the speaker. Audiences often benefit from material which extends the value of the presentation, but you should be comfortable that your meeting isn’t an occasion for marketing.
Also, if you want to tape the meeting, be sure you have signed authorization from all participants in advance.
Tell the speaker everything.
Make sure the speaker gets on your company mailing list for newsletters and other meeting information. Be very specific concerning the size and demographics of your audience (age, gender, social and economic level, etc.) If there is good news or bad about your organization or company, be sure the speaker knows this. Names, buzz words, themes, or “insider” information… let the speaker know so that it can be worked into the presentation. Set objectives for the session with the speaker and provide every suggestion possible to make it your best meeting ever.
It would be wise to let the speaker know who has been on the program and what other speakers are scheduled. This is important since some speakers use similar material. This knowledge gives the speaker the opportunity — to choose a different presentation that builds on what another speaker presents.
Before the speaker arrives. Provide a “host”
Assign someone who doesn’t have the heavy meeting involvement to be your liaison with the speaker. That person should check to be sure the speaker’s sleeping room reservation is in order and that the meeting room and audiovisual materials are as requested. Leave a note for the speaker’s arrival where this contact person can be found. The contact person can check with the speaker shortly after check-in and should offer to take the speaker to the meeting room. That is the first place most speakers want to go! In addition to seeing the room, the speaker will probably want to test the microphone and audio-visual equipment. Your liaison person is ideal to escort the speaker to the meeting room to handle introductions to the key persons you’ve specified.
So your audience can receive the greatest impact from the speaker, the room should be set with no more chairs than the anticipated attendance. The energy and dynamics of a speaker can be readily lost if the attendees are sprinkled throughout the seats, so you may consider roping off the back portion of the room so that the early arrivals take the front seats.
A bad introduction can spoil a good speaker.
Some of the most common horror stories are about poor introductions. It’s your obligation to the speaker and to your audience to obtain the speaker’s own printed introduction, which is usually designed to “set the stage.” The introducer should be firmly requested not to attempt to deviate from the introduction and particularly not to attempt to tell jokes. Diversions that could create a negative environment, such as announcements of bad news, should be avoided.
Stay on schedule.
Rarely would anyone ever ask a concert pianist to give an abbreviated version of Tchaikovsky’s First Concerto. By the same token, since the professional speaker’s presentation is well-timed and rehearsed, you run the risk of spoiling a superb presentation if it has to be cut…especially on short notice. If an important speaker is scheduled, try your best to arrange events before or after the talk that can be shortened if you get off schedule. As an example, you can be sure the opening remarks and settling-in time at the opening session will run considerably longer than anticipated, and then the balance of the morning has to compress to fit a luncheon schedule with a kitchen and dining room that can’t wait. Be sure a flexible event is in the time frame before or after a significant speaker or seminar leader. If a question and answer session is scheduled, have the emcee prepare a couple of interesting questions. This assures that you get the ball rolling since many people are reluctant to ask the first question.
After the presentation.
Again, your liaison person should be sure the speaker isn’t left “stranded” if everyone rushes to other sessions or social events. Be sure the speaker’s transportation is properly coordinated for a smooth departure. If arrangements have been made for the speaker’s lodging to be on the master account, check to be sure this is understood by the cashier.
Last but not least, send the speaker the evaluations on his or her presentation. We all grow from feedback on our performance. A reference letter is appreciated with any publicity about the presentation.
Is there any such thing as a perfect meeting? Strive to accomplish that for your group! You, as a professional meeting planner, must have a knowledge which embodies a vast number of detailed areas to pull off a meeting which approaches perfection. NSA New England stands ready to help you with the most important element of a successful meeting — finding the right speaker. Check out our on-line, searchable members’ directory. Although we aren’t a bureau and cannot recommend specific individuals, we’re pleased to answer your questions. Let us know if we may be of service. Contact us by email at the address below or give us a call.