Hiring motivational speakers (and finding them) is not always easy
Most people enjoy watching and listening to a great speaker at a conference, but many wonder about hiring motivational speakers. How do companies find phenomenal speakers? And what is the reason some presentations inspire and others fall flat? Over the past decade Thom Singer has invested time learning his craft by observing those who take the stage. He created “Speaker College” in my own mind over 15 years ago, and he promotes anyone who is addressing an audience to “professor”. Learning from other speakers and how they connect with an audience has been paramount to his success. No matter if a speaker is good or bad, you can learn something from how the occupy the stage. However, nobody comes to a keynote or breakout session hoping the presentation is awful. We all want the speakers to have skills in how they speak. Audiences desire to be moved by a speaker. They hate it when the presentation drones on and on without any purpose. Then why do so many conferences and meetings come up short when it comes to public speakers? Because the method for speaker selection is often not in line with the purpose. Too many speakers are selected because they are smart or have done something cool. Other are picked because an executive thinks or feels they will be good, without any experience or recommendations. Those who pick speakers often wear many hats, and their attention to the selection of the right speaker is left behind in a sea of other decisions. Little time is invested to discover the level of experience presenting. Additionally, too many organizers fill speaking slots with vendors or others who are their to promote products and services. Those in the audience do not want to sit through a pitch-fest and will usually tune out. In episode 428 of the “Cool Things Entrepreneurs Do” podcast, Thom Singer shares tips for how to find a speaker and hire the right person to “WOW” your event. In the previous weeks before recording this episode, Thom was contacted by three different people asking for advice on how to hire a motivational speaker. These people were seeking experts in other topic areas than his expertise, but they had never before brought in outside professional speakers.
Please note that this episode is all about discovering and connecting with speakers.
Why hire a speaker? Often an expert with an outside view is just what your company or association needs to get fresh ideas. Too many people will tune out their co-workers, but based on third party suggestions will take new actions. Some roll their eyes at motivation, but Singer believes that all speakers need to be “Motivational Speakers”, as the opposite is not good for your meeting (de-motivating?). Before you begin you must know all the details of your meeting and be clear on the desired outcomes. Do you want the speaker for an hour or three hours? Is it your desire they stay all day and be part of your event? Should the speaker be experienced on stage or is their knowledge enough? Does your group prefer a lot of interaction? All of these things must be determined before you start your search. To find great speakers start by asking your co-workers, friends, vendors, clients, and even competitors who they had seen speak in the last year that could be a good fit for your event. Most motivational speakers (including Thom Singer) are first identified by potential clients via word-of-mouth. Next turn to any speakers you have worked with in the past. The best motivational speakers have other friends in the business, and they know who is good and who is great. A speaker who is really a business partner will want to help you in your hiring of others. Be aware that professional speakers may cost more than you expected if you are not familiar with the business. Celebrities can cost over $25,000 for a one hour talk. Most experienced presenters will cost over $7000. Do not make the mistake of thinking this is what they make per hour, as a speaker invests a lifetime of preparation, plus they are often working on your specific talk for weeks in advance. There are many factors that determine the free that a speaker charges, but you can always try to negotiate (within reason). The value in a speaker is about more than their content. Some think “Content is King”…. but Thom Singer disagrees. If people only desire content when they attend a meeting they can stay home and read a white paper. Thom believes people want inspiration, explanation, and motivation in addition to content. He hates it when people raise the argument of “content vs. motivation”… as there should always be both. It is hard to define what makes a good presentation, so people hide behind the desire for content. Author Cory Doctorow said it best, “Conversation is king…. content is just something to talk about”. In hiring a motivational speaker you should expect them to do more than just speak. They need to engage the audience to think and feel. They need to be a peer to those at the conference. Without some type of connection, there are just words being tossed out toward those in the chairs. The new style of speaking is conversational. This does not mean it is always interactive, but the days of a speaker being the expert who preaches knowledge to an audience are past. The best speakers talk with the crowd, not to them. You can feel the energy level shift when a speaker connects with the audience. Without this connection the tone of the whole conference can be “blah”. In the planning stages speakers need to be vetted and their experience with moving an audience discovered. Calling yourself a “speaker” is easy (and in today’s world common), but there must be something real behind the label. How can you discover if a speaker has the right skill level and the ability to impact your group? It takes a lot of time. It is easier just to hire anyone who has a pulse. Really vetting means attending a lot of events with an eagle’s eye on watching speakers for both content and style. It requires many phone calls to others who hire speakers to learn who they have had on their stages. And it requires taking risks. Sometimes the best speaker is not an industry leader or celebrity in your field. To find the best speakers for your events, you must be looking for them all the time. Thom Singer delivered over 70 talks last year, and very few came through an internet search or other random connection. Almost every single time the client found him it was from word-of-mouth (once removed) or they were in an audience where I was a featured speaker. A speaker who gets talked about will get the business, therefore you need to be listening.
Hiring motivational speakers is not always an easy task. If you have any questions, reach out to Thom Singer at thom @ ThomSinger.com or 512-970-0398. Watch his video at www.Thomsinger.com/videos
Seeking a sales speaker? Contact Thom.