Establishing a productive relationship with an in-demand professional public speaker requires a degree of give-and-take between the lecturer and event organizers. Yes, the speakers who turn the ears of the world with their every word have no doubt each honed a handful of inspiring, informative and provocative talks ready to be delivered with great aplomb on a moment’s notice if necessary. Just don’t mistake these driven, experienced lecturers for trained monkeys happy to perform on command. Chimply the best!!! They assuredly love what they do with a unique passion that can only accompany a calling to motivate strangers toward brighter and bolder lives. Still, being the very best at their craft and playing it for the benefit of a captivated audience is still a livelihood that calls upon extensive outlays of time, personal expense, logistical management, and diligent preparation.

To reap the greatest benefit from a highly sought-after speaker’s sacrosanct time and resources, engage your guest with ample consideration for what you will both invest in orchestrating the most memorable and impactful experience possible for the anticipated crowd.


In this regard, choose which speakers you contact about appearing at your event the same way you would narrow your search for a new house or car. Would you bother touring a 12-bedroom palatial country estate when you know for a fact that three bedrooms in the suburbs could break your realistic budget? Why would you waste a BMW sales associate’s time trying to negotiate a current-model year luxury coupe down to the price of a sensible hatchback? Speakers’ cost range from the thousands to the millions for a single event. Keep your expectations grounded while negotiating any speaker’s fee, and always take reasonable travel expenses you will likely be expected to pay into account when deciding whether a candidate fits within your means.

Time To Schedule Before Event

Under no circumstances should you leave hiring a professional speaker until the last minute of your event planning. Quite the contrary: out of fairness to everybody you intend to approach about addressing your audience. You owe it both to your attendees and any speakers who might otherwise be genuinely enthused about delivering a talk to grant as much lead time as possible for the most valuable possible lecturers to work you into their plans.

As it should when thinking through your budget and accounting for your speaker’s travel expenses, your location needs to play a critical role in your planning. Yes, Smarty McTalkypants might be permanently based near you in Newark, NJ. However, if he has a competing offer for an engagement in Los Angeles around the time of your event and you wait to contact him until he already has other plans set in stone, it won’t matter how genuinely interested he might be in every other aspect of your offer.

Even if Smarty makes it home with days before you would like to welcome him onstage at your gathering, that’s an unreasonably short prep time. What’s worse, you won’t have any wiggle room yourself if his beloved family pet, Goldfish McSoggybritches, unexpectedly dies and Smarty leaves you scrambling for a replacement while he takes some time off for proper bereavement. Allow at least two to three months of contact prior to your event, but six months to a year is far more accommodating if reasonable within your own planning.


Many incredible speakers can rework and fine-tune their talks to wow virtually any audience with a wave of moving insight, infectious humor and deep-down personal passion that can shift the axis of any demographic’s thinking. That doesn’t mean any Jack-of-all-trades speaker can effectively pontificate on any given topic as articulately and meaningfully as any seasoned expert.

In many instances, taking stock of your audience’s collective makeup will point at least generally toward a logical, engaging theme. Carefully consider the foundational question, “What am I trying to achieve with this event?”

  • Education
  • Motivation
  • Inspiration
  • Behavioral shift
  • Fundraising
  • Rally support behind a single organization or cause
  • Ignite a much-needed change
  • Pure entertainment

Take nothing about the desired presentation for granted, from the time of day you expect it to take place to the differences that separate a memorably lighthearted after-dinner talk from an eye-opening workshop or pointed keynote. When it comes to our present needs, the marquee speaker with thousands of Twitter followers and a jaw-dropping international resume actually might not hold a candle to the one dozens of your immediate colleagues recommended based on local or regional events. He might even be cheaper, more geographically feasible, and have a unique local appeal that Gary Globetrotter can’t replicate.

Messaging & Audience Demographics

Here’s another shocker: some otherwise-exceptional speakers cannot refine their talks to accommodate certain unique demographics or needs. Because their brands have built on their deeply held personal commitments to specific issue platforms, ideologies, and causes. If you have ever worried about whether Rush Limbaugh will have a previous engagement delivering the Democratic National Convention keynote address that interferes with giving a talk at your Tea Party barbecue and cornhole tournament, rest easy.

Since every audience is different, it’s a good idea to understand exactly what your audience is all about so you can properly know the type of speaker to focus your efforts on. If your audience is mostly 70-year-old single knitting ladies who are cat lovers, probably not a good idea to book a keynote speaker who has only done futurism tech talks. A sure-fire audience disconnect.

This is why everyone who hires a professional public speaker should set aside time to review clips of previous talks by everyone under consideration. Internalize exactly what you want your audience to take away from this experience. Think this through down to the clearest detail. Once you know in no uncertain terms what you expect your speaker to accomplish, thoroughly vet each personality to zero in on that one individual who genuinely “gets” your message and knows just how to sell it.

What Would You Like Your Speaker To Actually Do?

Most experienced professional keynote speakers would laugh until they cried at anybody who insinuated their skillsets consisted of little more than showing up on time, dressing sharply and slipping smoothly into their talks. Just the same, they would also tell anybody interested in retaining their services exactly what their fee does and does not include up to and beyond their time onstage.

If you have additional legwork in mind prior to or following your event, discuss your requests as openly as possible while negotiating your speaker’s fee, not after the contracts have been signed and delivered. Lay out any expectations for building a spirited, action-oriented presentation personally fitted to your organization’s needs and goals. What about setting aside time for a meet-and-greet before or after the talk? Perhaps some limited one-on-one meetings within a limited number of appointment times? Would your speaker be interested in contributing in a guest capacity to your organization’s blog or newsletter or recording a personal audio or video message related to your group’s cause?

You won’t know unless you ask. Anything that better solidifies the speaker’s call to action could be fair game. However, don’t be surprised if certain requests come with reasonable compensation requested for the above-and-beyond time investment.

Ask For a Video Of Previous Work

Now that you know round-a-bout what you want from a speaker at your event, it’s probably a good idea to know what to expect. Ask them for short clips of previous work that relates to your need. Plus, you have concrete video and audio of a typical set. This way your expectations have set up properly and there are no surprises that their mannerisms or speaking style doesn’t clash with your audience and their needs.

Sign A Contract

You’ve spoken at length to the speaker you wish to engage. The terms appear mutually agreeable. The fees have reasonably negotiated. It’s time to make the engagement official. Both sides should review all documents carefully to verify that all previously discussed terms have been addressed, including clauses compensating either side’s financial investment in the event should some circumstance dramatically change the feasibility of the appearance agreement and a reasonable cancellation window in the event of unforeseen, inescapable events jeopardizing either the event or the speaker’s ability to meet the agreed-upon commitment. If there are any lingering questions or discrepancies, now is the time to bring them to light.