“….But we had the speaker on hold for that date!”

Posted: August 19, 2014 in Be In The Know, Meeting Planner
A “speaker hold” is one of the most misunderstood concepts in the professional/celebrity-speaker world. Taken at face value, a speaker hold ensures the organization in question has the right of first refusal in the event the speaker receives a competitive firm offer on the day of the hold. Pretty simple and straight forward in theory, but there’s a lot more to the concept. Let’s take a look at its history to get a little more perspective.

Thirty years ago, a speaker hold meant something entirely different – when a client asked to hold a date in the early 1980s, the implication was they wanted to book the speaker but needed an official answer from a C-Level executive, volunteer board, etc. This meant a hold was taken very seriously by the speaker as it usually resulted in an actual paid booking. The popularity of the Internet, and with it an influx of speaker bureaus online, changed the concept of a speaker hold dramatically.  It’s not unusual for a speaker bureau to put ten speakers on hold for the same event before even mentioning the speaker idea to the client!  Needless to say, this practice has diluted the significance of the speaker hold.Fast forward to the present day, and a speaker hold is no longer an ironclad guarantee. For example, in the last two months The Speaker Experts have lost first holds for the following reasons:

    1. The group with a second hold bid up the speaking fee, offering a substantially higher number than the speaker’s standard fee.
    1. A competing hold scheduled the speaker for a series of ten speeches, one of which landed on the date The Speaker Experts had on hold.
    1. The Speaker Experts were holding a date in Southern California, and a competing offer was presented to the Washington, DC – based speaker for a speech in Washington, DC.
    1. The speaker had the incorrect dates for a family vacation blocked off on his schedule, and was unavailable on the dates held by The Speaker Experts.


With that being said, here are a few ways to fortify your speaker hold:

    1. Make sure the speaker or your speaker bureau understands how serious you are about the hold, and when you will be making some type of decision. For example, a few years ago another speaker bureau called The Speaker Experts and asked, “Can you put Jim Lovell on an exploding hold for June 13?”. When asked what they meant by an exploding hold, we were told “it’ll blow up in two weeks.” That is an example of a hold not to be taken seriously.
    1. Understand the type of speaker you are working with. A hold will be taken much more seriously, in most cases, by a professional speaker than a celebrity or media speaker.
    1. Understand industry jargon. The phrase “His/Her speaking schedule is open on that day,” does not necessarily mean the speaker is available and willing to accept a speech; it just means the bureau or speaker does not have a prior speaking engagement.


Speakers will honor “holds” the majority of the time, especially if they are a professional speaker or someone who makes their living on the speaking circuit. It is also important to know that a hold does not give a client 100% protection that the speaker will accept the speaking invitation if offered. An event is not confirmed until the invitation has been made,  the terms accepted by all parties, and then ratified with a signed contract and deposit (if the contract calls for payment).

Gary McManis & Jay Conklin

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  1. […] “….But we had the speaker on hold for that date!” August 19, 2014 […]

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