In a perfect world, you would have an unlimited budget to hire top speakers for your next meeting or convention. Since it’s not, here are some tips on getting the most for your meeting dollar. Let me tell you about a project I worked on with the American Payroll Association that could be a model for you — or at least expand your thinking about ways to use speakers.
APA’s Executive Director/CEO, Dan Maddux had a week of speaking and seminar slots to fill. Instead of assigning each slot to a different speaker, Dan chose to maximize the contribution of a few top people, using three of them in three different ways. That’s how Dan made 1 + 1 + 1 = 9. Three speakers used three ways equals nine slots filled. Here’s how such a move can save your organization and money and let you “trade up” to speakers you otherwise couldn’t afford.
Save on Hotels and Airfare
Cutting the number of speakers might or might not reduce the total nights lodging needed, depending on your schedule. However, you’ll definitely save on transportation — for instance, three round-trips versus nine.
Speakers May Reduce Fee
I can’t promise you that all speakers will do extra presentations for the same rates — they won’t. But the speaker you hired last year might have been more flexible if you had only thought to ask, “After your keynote, could you do a breakout session?” Or,” Could you emcee?” “Could you moderate a panel?” Even, “Our chairman is a bit nervous. Could you coach him on speaking?”
Speakers may give you a better price for three consecutive days at one hotel, rather than three separate dates months apart.
For example, for the Florida Realtors Association, I asked, “After my luncheon speech, would you like me to do a seminar on speaking skills?” They said, “Well, the agenda is already slotted in, but we’d love it if you would emcee our Top Producers’ panel, the first breakout session after lunch.”
For the California Interment Association, I was scheduled to present a two-hour seminar after lunch. I said, “What else is going on? Would you like to me to do a spouse program?” They said, “We’ve never had one, but we’ve invited spouses for a breakfast get-together.” I added a 45-minute program that same morning. The only difference to me was that I had to go to the hotel a few hours earlier. Like most speakers, I want my clients to know I am there to serve them, not to pick up my speaking fee and run.
It’s Easier to Get Sponsors
Trading up to big-name (or bigger-name) speakers makes it easier for you to get sponsors. Whenever people say, “We can’t afford you,” I always ask, “Do you have sponsors to help pay for your event?”
Who would sponsor your event? Consider approaching the exhibitors at your conventions, or whoever sells to your members or who wants good PR with the people in the audience. List these “angels” prominently in the program. I always make a point of giving sponsors a good plug in my presentations. For example, after my opening story for the American Cemetery Association, I quoted the founder of my corporate sponsor, Service Corporation International. Then I gave examples to reinforce my points by reading from their newsletters, and my walk away line incorporated their name. I always let sponsor know, “Don’t worry, they won’t have any doubt who paid for me,” and make a joke about it in my speech.
Three Invaluable Bonuses
Having speakers on hand throughout your event gives you far greater flexibility in scheduling. Continuity can establish a powerful connection between audience and speaker, getting your message across in a way that a wide variety of speakers couldn’t. Dan Maddux says, “We found that when we triple-booked those speakers, they become even more popular, really getting to know our people who always want them to stay around longer.” Continuity, during an event or from year to year, means your speakers are able to notice and volunteer to help your organization in special ways you may not have thought of.
How It Works
Recently, 1,674 members of the American Payroll Association attended its Sixteenth Annual Congress in Nashville. Dan chose as keynote speakers Art Linkletter, Susan RoAne, Willy Jolley, Al Walker, and me, Patricia Fripp. He had little trouble getting sponsorship to help pay for these keynoters because of the success of his past conferences.
The Congress was scheduled to start on a Monday. Dan came up with the idea of offering an extra pre-Congress program on Sunday, “For Women Only.” This isn’t as sexist as it may sound because seventy-five percent of APA’s membership is women. Dan figured that many could take advantage of cheaper Saturday night airline tickets, saving their company’s money, so they might be open to an extra day of education and fun.
He called this extra program “Women on the Ladder to Success: Career Strategies for the Millennium,” and used six presenters. Three were from within the Association and industry, including the current president. Three were professional speakers who were also scheduled to speak during the main Congress. Each of the professionals gave two talks at this separate Sunday session. I did “Women in the Workplace, the Evolution of Career women” and “Are You a Wonder Woman or Superman in Payroll?” (In a custom-made Wonder Woman costume I had made 20 years ago. The fact I can still wear it deserves applause!) Susan RoAne spoke on “Taking Charge of Your Accomplishments” and “Women Who Make Things Happen: Traits of the Savvy and Successful.” Diane Parente’s programs were “Your Passport to Image Credibility” and “Looking Your Professional Best Without Spending a Fortune.”
Then, at the kick-off Monday session for the full membership, Susan was the keynote speaker with “Schmooze or Loose: How to Gain the Verbal Edge.” She also presented a program for the vendors, “How to Make the Most of the Trade Show.” Diane Parente delivered a breakout session on “Image, a Powerful Tool,” and gave Dan’s Board of Directors one-on-one consultation as a bonus. (17 in all.) I delivered the Congress’s keynote speech, “Insights into Excellence,” presented a marketing seminar for the vendors, “How to Nurture Relationships Once You Leave the Trade Show,” and, as a break-out, conducted a workshop on “How to Sell Yourself and Your Ideas.”
Having booked the Sunday before the conference, Maddux thought of a way to use his talent pool for a Speakers’ School on Saturday. Last year this program had been a success, but with a smaller audience of their speakers who talk on tax law changes, it had not justified a hiring a keynote caliber presenter to teach it.
As I was already going to be there for several days I was excited at the prospect. I suggested we invite his association members scheduled to give programs during the congress. He also invite the APA leadership from the State chapters who have to speak at their meetings and get no formal public speaking training. As far as I am concerned the more the merrier. I charge the same whether my audience is five or 5,000. After the session I helped the President and Woman of the Year totally rewrite their talks. They have now requested I train them at least 3 months before next yearís convention.
Synergy Makes Good Sense
Dan says “Using proven professionals in several slots so they develop a rapport with the audience is a better investment than bringing in a different speaker for each slot. In our case, two of the speakers, Diane and Patricia, had been so successful as keynoters the previous year that the audience was looking forward to seeing them again. This gave us the advantage of repeat role models, because our presidents turn over every year. The added fact that Patricia, Diane, and Susan had worked together before, and are best friends, gave us even more bang for our buck. We could never have put a dollar value on that kind of synergy.
“I need my speakers to deliver a message and be powerful role models. Patricia, Diane, and Susan are all self-made women over fifty, looking good, feeling good, and they’ve built their careers themselves. This is an important message for our Association audience.”
More Bang for Your Buck
Dan Maddux was able to negotiate with his speakers for a lot of extras. Many professionals figure that, as long as they are there anyway and being well paid, their time belongs to the client. Therefore, they are happy to take on extra tasks.
The next time you are planning to hire a speaker, consider using him or her in multiple ways. It doesn’t hurt to ask if the speaker would be willing to:
- Deliver one or two “breakout sessions” or a spouse program along with the keynote at the same half-day fee.
- Introduce other speakers.
- Emcee the event that they are part of.
- Help association Presidents of Board of Directors with their own presentations, either in advance or while the speaker is there.
- Say a prayer at a meal.
- Moderate a panel.
- Sign autographs.
- Appear in the sponsor’s booth to make their sponsorship more of an investment.
Like most of my comrades in The National Speakers Association, I want to be memorable and to give full value for your meeting dollars. For the Hamilton Bank in Philadelphia, I even leaped out of a spaceship, wearing a Wonder Woman costume. (Getting into the spaceship was a little more complicated, but that’s another story.)