How to Find a Great Speaker for Your Event-Pt 1

Good speakers are everywhere.  They are right under your own noses in your Sunday School classes, in your congregations, in your women’s groups, they are down the street from you, across town or across the country. With a little patience and the posts in this series, you will find the perfect speaker for your next event.
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Your speaker selection is one of the most important elements in a successful event, but finding the right speaker for your retreat or event can be a daunting task. Just google Christian Women’s Speaker- there are a few of us out there :). So how do you decide? Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll lay out the steps your group needs to walk through to make sure you get a great speaker for your event.

In this post, we’ll talk about the first steps you need to take to lay the groundwork to find the perfect speaker to fit your agenda. This foundation is vital information and will help you immensely in your search. Next week, we’ll discuss the ins and outs of hiring/contracting a speaker for your event.

1. Determine the needs of your audience

Thorough knowledge of the needs of your group is essential in selecting the right speaker. What message are you trying to impart? What do you want your attendees to walk away with? Do you want to just have fun and fellowship? Build connections? Do you want a Bible teacher or a motivational speaker or a retreat leader- they are very different animals, you know?

You need to have a really good idea of what you want for your attendees, who they are and what they need.  One of the best groups I’ve worked with was a women’s committee who knew that they wanted a fun and inspirational message for their group, but they didn’t want to put anyone on the spot with interactive activities. I respected that they knew enough about their group that the committee could tell me how to structure my talk.

2. Establish your date, time and budget

Did you notice that this isn’t step 1?  You see the most important thing is for you to understand what my friend calls your “philosophy of ministry.” Before she goes into ANY event plan, her first question is “what are we trying to accomplish with this event?” Answer that question FIRST

THEN, start planning logistics:

  • Start looking for a speaker as soon as the date for your event is set. Many speakers book engagements up to a year in advance and you will want to get on their calendar as soon as possible.For example, I am writing this post in December- my calendar for the next year is almost completely booked in the months of April, June and October.
  • Consider how much time you have to fill and where that time falls in your overall program. If your time slot is flexible, a professional speaker can often tell you the right amount of time for the job. A professional can also make recommendations about the flow of an event. Elements like worship, fellowship time, time to eat, and where to plug in other speakers are program items a seasoned speaker can help you place for a seamless event.
  • Factor in the fee you are willing or able to pay for a speaker. Your search for a speaker can be narrowed or broadened based upon your budget.  Plan to pay your speaker.  Many speakers have a set speaker’s fee.  Many don’t. I personally, choose to speak for a love offering (and travel expenses) not because I don’t think I am worth a hefty speaker’s fee or churches can’t pay one, but because God has called me to trust His provision for this season of my ministry.

I used to work within a fee structure in the thousands of dollars for one speaking event. And here’s the thing, when I asked for a speaker’s fee, no one balked….not one church or organization thought it was ok to send me away with a gift card to Chik-fil-a and an ornament made by the kids at craft time (please don’t think I have anything against Chik-fil-a or homemade ornaments.) Since I’ve begun requesting a love offering, I have been sent away with that more than once. I love these things as much as the next girl, but they don’t put new shoes on my kiddos feet.

Whoever you choose to be your speaker deserves to be compensated for the time and effort it took to prepare for your event. A well thought out talk doesn’t just fall out of a speaker’s mouth, it takes preparation, study and prayer.  I will often spend 20-30 hours preparing for a 45 minute talk.  A weekend retreat can take up to 100 hours to prepare for, not to mention the time spent travelling to and from the event.  So consider that part of your logistical planning.  Please don’t think that I am saying you have to pay thousands (or even hundreds) of dollars for a great speaker, but also understand your speaker is trying to feed her family and compensate her accordingly. Some speakers may negotiate their fees when they are doing more than one program for you or when they are allowed to sell their products. Ask about your options.

3. Identify the type of speaker who will best match the needs of your audience

A speaker’s expertise in a given field may be the big draw, but a well-known name does not guarantee a professional presentation. High prices don’t always mean high quality. Will your audience and the overall program benefit most from a celebrity; a popular Bible teacher; a best-selling author; or a professional speaker who has a thorough knowledge of the appropriate topic?

4. Locate your resources

  • Personal referrals are a great way to narrow your search. Ask colleagues and other ministry leaders for recommendations.
  • Speakers bureaus locate and book speakers according to your specifications and needs. A bureau can locate speakers and quote fees. Many bureaus specialize in particular speakers such as celebrities, authors or athletes. You can also use the internet to find Speakers bureaus and, for that matter, Christian Women’s Speakers (google it, it’s amazing what you come up with.) There are a few bureaus that I have worked with in the past and know the requirements to be extensive and the quality of speakers to be really wonderful:

– Christian Speaker Services – http://www.christianspeakersservices.com/

-Proverbs 31 Ministries- http://www.proverbs31.org/speakers/

-ProvenWay Ministries – http://www.provenway.org/presenters/

One caveat of using a speaker’s bureau is that speaker’s bureaus very rarely negotiate fees.  There is generally a finders fee paid to the bureau that increases the overall fee for that speaker.  Don’t be afraid to choose a speaker who is not associated with a bureau.  I have worked both ways, and prefer to be unattached to a bureau in order to maintain control over my speaking fees.

 So there you go, the first few steps to finding your best speaker ever!  Next week we’ll talk about what happens after you figure out what you are looking for and where to find her.  We’ll talk about negotiations, collaboration, contracts and evaluations.  If you have any questions on this post, please feel free to comment below.  

One thought on “How to Find a Great Speaker for Your Event-Pt 1

  1. Pingback: How to Find a Great Speaker for Your Event-Pt 2 « Strings Attached Ministries

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