9 Things to Include in Every Speaker Request

9 Things to Include in Every Speaker Request

microphoneI’ve been doing a lot of speaking lately. It is a huge compliment to receive so many requests. I am grateful for every one and wish I had time to honor all of them. It’s funny; I am extremely introverted, but give me a captive audience and a microphone and I’m in heaven. I love public speaking! Go figure.

While I love the actual speaking part of each engagement, it can be a bumpy road leading up to the event, especially if the host or sponsor hasn’t taken the time to clearly define their goals. This often adds the burden of unnecessary emails and phone calls to the work the speaker is already doing to prepare the presentation itself.

Wanting to better manage the process of up-front event planning, I’ve put together a few tips which would make things flow more smoothly and efficiently. If you are considering booking a speaker, thinking through these points in advance and clearly articulating them when contacting the speaker will go a long way toward expediting the process for all involved:

  1. Who are you? Are you representing a business, professional organization, etc.? Please provide relevant links to make it easier to learn more. (This seems like a no-brainer, but so many skip right over this.)
  2. Who is the audience? Professionals, Business Owners, Students, Marketers, etc.?  How many do you expect to participate? How familiar is the audience already with the desired topic?
  3. Budget What is the budget which is set aside for the speaker(s)? Will you be charging attendees? Do you expect speakers to help promote the event and share in the fees collected. It is important to be clear about this up front. Note: If you do not have funds to pay a speaker, clearly articulate how your particular audience mirrors the speaker’s target audience (and therefore, is more likely to want to engage the speaker for follow-up work, buy their book, etc. and/or how visibility at this event will benefit the speaker in some other way) is even more critical.
  4. Topic What is the objective of the event or session? Why/how do you believe the topic will be of interest and value to your audience? Note: While I understand the desire to market events in such a way that they appear to be “must attend” opportunities, if it does not set realistic expectations, we run the risk of disappointing participants. I’ve been asked to speak at events which promised to “Increase your business by 50% in 6 months” and “Learn everything you need to know to immediately grow your business on Facebook and Twitter” – length of the presentation: 30 minutes. Let’s be real. A high-level overview of the opportunities, possibly. Everything you need to know, no way.
  5. Format Are you looking for a single speaker or panelist or something else? If putting together a panel, who else will be on the panel? How much time is alloted for the presentation and follow-up Q & A?
  6. When and Where What are possible dates and times for the event? Where do you plan to hold the event? Will there be a projector, screen, wifi, microphone (or other equipment) available?
  7. Publicity How will you market the event? How will you promote the presenter(s)? Note: Critically important if there is no budget to pay speakers.
  8. Recording Will the event be photographed, recorded and/or livestreamed? If so, will this content be made available to speakers for their own use (i.e., sharing on their website)? Note: You will need to get the speaker’s permission up front to do this anyway and allowing them to share the content will bring additional visibility to your company or organization, which is usually an added benefit.
  9. Speaker Selection Was it deliberate or arbitrary? This may seem like an odd item to add to the list of tips, but it matters. I’ve been asked to speak at events which really weren’t a fit and left me wondering why they asked me. I’ve also been asked to speak as a panelist where many requests were sent out and the agenda was to be defined by those who agreed to speak (which feels like a backwards way of managing the process). These experiences combined have led me to highlight the importance of doing your homework to make sure the speaker is a good fit for your event and that your event is a good fit for the speaker.

While all speakers will have different criteria for selecting speaking engagements, including as much of this information in the initial communication in clear bullet points will make it easier for all parties to proceed.

As for me, my 2011 calendar is already quite busy. All of the requests I receive are from people who have heard me speak or have been referred to me. What a huge honor! The good news is that the number of requests has grown over the last few years; the bad news is that I cannot take them all on and still manage my consulting business. I have had to decline several requests, primarily those which didn’t seem the best fit for me based on some of the criteria above.

Have you been in my shoes before? Do you speak or work with speakers at events? What would you add to the list?


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  1. Lisa Braithwaite March 8, 2011 at 12:34 pm - Reply

    I have a questionnaire that I send the organizer to get a lot of these questions answered, but I do love it when they’ve thought about them in advance and I can get answers before we even get to the questionnaire!

    • Irene Koehler March 8, 2011 at 12:38 pm - Reply

      Great idea, Lisa! I have received so many requests which feel like they were tossed out into the wind with the hopes that something floats back. Accepting these requests is often more labor-intensive than the paid engagements.

  2. Jan Richards March 8, 2011 at 3:45 pm - Reply

    I smiled at your opening thoughts for this post, Irene. This is an excellent list for communications between program planners and speakers.

    • Irene Koehler March 8, 2011 at 3:56 pm - Reply

      Hey, Jan. Glad it made you smile.

      I’ve been told I’m an operational introvert. I find it exhausting to be with a group of people, but am able to behave like an extrovert if the situation requires it, which public speaking certainly does.

  3. Monica Ware March 9, 2011 at 10:03 am - Reply

    I’m new to public speaking. This is really good information, thank you!

  4. Leslie January 12, 2014 at 2:06 pm - Reply

    Thank you! I should have asked these questions when I was invited to speak at the library about my experience as a freelance book designer. The event was advertised to author’s who wanted to be published. My experience is not in helping author’s publish their own writing but in providing professional services to actual publishers.

    • Irene Koehler January 12, 2014 at 4:20 pm - Reply

      I’ve had many similar experiences, Leslie. Feel free to forward this post to the next organization asking you to speak. It’ll help both parties understand the audience’s expectations and whether it is a good fit.

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