Archive for the ‘Meeting Planner’ Category

Last month, speaker bureau industry leader Washington Speakers Bureau announced a change in their co-broker pricing structure that should be noted by those who schedule paid professional speakers. A letter from Vice President of Bureau Relations Sheldon Bream stated the following:

I wanted to let you know that WSB is changing our pricing structure for more than half of our exclusive speakers. Those speakers will now be priced at a gross fee (split commission) while some will remain at a “net to WSB” fee.

This modified policy represents a philosophical pivot from their announcement reported in our January 2015 posting, “Washington Speakers Bureau Co-Brokering Policy Change: What It Means to You” that indicated the firm would no longer be willing to “split commissions” on any of their speakers.

Real Estate CBSThe Speaker Experts offer no judgment as to why they made this strategic policy shift. Our only concern is the impact this policy has on those corporate and association executives who “book” paid professional speakers. In our judgement, the policy change has little impact on the underpinnings of the co-broker model and the pros and cons of being involved in a co-broker situation.  Bottom line: if you opt to schedule a WSB exclusive speaker via a competing speaker bureau, your organization may or may not pay a higher speaking fee.

The actual price of the speaker is just one issue to consider when deciding if it is your organization’s best interest to be involved in a co-broker scenario. In our posting, “The Four Myths of the Speaker Bureau Co-Broker,” we outlined how the co-broker process works and what it means to an organization scheduling a speaker. Followers of this blog know that The Speaker Experts are quick to point out “co-brokering” a speaker is rarely in your best interest, but there can be occasions where it might make sense for the organization. The key here is to know when you are getting involved in a co-broker situation. This is a decision that should be made by you, and not by a speaker bureau on your behalf.

The Speaker Experts have a vast industry knowledge of the speaker bureau industry and the exclusive rosters of all the major speaker bureaus. We are always happy to share this information with the readers of this blog.

Gary McManis & Jay Conklin

You have assembled a World-Class lineup of brand name general session speakers, as well as an educational program featuring the circuit’s leading high-impact thought leaders. The six-figure investment in speaker honoraria is steep, but this part was easy compared to the countless hours of evaluating speakers, working with volunteer leadership, and coming to a consensus within the organization. When The Speaker Experts started in this industry 30 years ago, the next step was to print these speakers in a program and distribute to the membership with some help from the U.S. Post Office. In today’s digital age however, the construction of a program is just the start of a process that can benefit membership and the association for years to come.

In order to help us understand how better to throw gasoline on the social media fire, The Speaker Experts enlisted the help of sought after speaker and social media expert Corey Perlman. Below are his thoughts on orchestrating a comprehensive social media strategy for your big event.


Putting Together Your Comprehensive Social Media Event Strategy


Social activity leading up to the event is all about creating buzz and attracting the right people to your event! This is the time to inform and intrigue followers, broaden your reach, and start to encourage conversation and engagement around your event.

Create A Memorable, User-Friendly Event Hashtag

    • Consider including initials or numbers to create a hashtag that is short, unique and easy to remember. A little research can help you identify if one is taken/has already been used, so you can avoid intermingling your event conversation with someone else’s and confusing followers.
    • HashtagIncorporate your hashtag on your event website, in promotional communications and even some unconventional locations, like inserting it into your email signature—just like anything else, the more exposure a hashtag gets, the better the chance that people will use and remember it.

Lead Time

    • As mentioned above, starting early to allow yourself solid lead time can help you get the most out of your social media campaign and build awareness over a period of time. Just like movie trailers get people excited for an upcoming feature film, incorporating enough lead time as a part of your event strategy allows you time to create and organize great content, build your audience, and tweak certain things, when necessary.


    • Ensure your tone and engagement levels are consistent. Cute and cheeky in one post and serious in another has the potential to confuse (and likely disengage) followers.
    • Make sure to encourage engagement by sharing and responding to comments made by attendees. Whether you ‘like’, respond to or re-post messages, ensure you are consistent and that you avoid reacting to certain posts and not others.


    • COMING-SOON-FRAME_1024x1024Use social platform(s) to offer early registration discounts or reveal exciting news, like announcing who the keynote speaker(s) will be. Ramp up anticipation with a few intriguing posts about how excited you are to reveal who the keynote will be—everyone likes a little surprise and delight.
    • If you’re not getting the engagement or reach you’d like to see, consider creating a budget for digital advertising. A small budget for boosting or promoting posts on Facebook can be extremely helpful to project your message out to a larger audience.

Utilize Speakers/ Talent

    • Ask speakers to promote the event using the hashtag—this is a great and effective way to expand exposure within your event strategy

Social activity during your event is just as important as pre-event promotion, especially to capture the essence and power of the live event experience. It is also crucial that you recognize and acknowledge your brand ambassadors—your attendees! They have the power to amplify your event authentically, so make sure you are encouraging, monitoring and maximizing opportunities.

Encourage Sharing

    • word of mouthMaximize the power of your audience by making your hashtag easily visible and encourage sharing.
    • Consider running contests throughout your event—like incentivizing users with the most creative posts or publish clues to a scavenger hunt that runs throughout the conference.

Use a Social Management Tool

    • Platforms like HootSuite and TweetDeck make it easy to monitor activity on Twitter around a hashtag—use these tools to monitor and engage with attendees by liking or retweeting their posts and responding to messages, when appropriate.
    • Encourage your speakers to consider using tools like Kiwilive or Poll Everywhere to keep the audience engaged and connected.

Maximize Video Opportunities

    • With platforms like Livestream, it’s now easier than ever to bring individuals who couldn’t attend the event into the audience in real time and experience the power of the live event experience.
    • If live streaming isn’t in the cards, consider hiring a videographer to record keynotes, presentations and other parts of your event to archive for future use.
    • Periscope and Facebook Live are two growing platforms for live video. Consider tactics for encouraging use among attendees, or using the platform to stream other activities during the event, like post-keynote interviews.

Continue the momentum with your post event strategy! Utilize social content from the event to further amplify it—in follow-up messaging for attendees, communications to other customers, and to promote future events. Identify where you can use video, images, commentary and testimonials on your website, in your database and via social channels.

[Continue to] Maximize Video Opportunities

    • SNAPCHAT LOGOVideo from the event can (and should) be used long after the closing keynote—whether it is to evoke the excitement of the event for those who attended, offer an opportunity for those who couldn’t attend to be part of it, or start to amplify next year’s event. And with platforms including Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook allowing video, sharing video via social is easier than ever.

Review Activity

    • Social activity from events provides planners candid, unedited feedback from clients or customers on everything from the food to the keynote speakers to the Wi-Fi connection—don’t discount the significance of this commentary, especially as you consider your next event.
    • Examine posts from attendees during the event for photos and testimonials—on-the-ground insights on how amazing your keynote speaker was or photos taken from their vantage point are invaluable marketing assets.

Harnessing the power of social media throughout the event life cycle by developing a comprehensive event strategy provides planners with the opportunity to effectively make their event much bigger than it is. Use these tips for before, during and after your event to broaden your reach, provide clients/attendees with unique and valuable opportunities to engage, participate and be a part of the conversation, and develop a unique record of what happened and the content that was created.

About Our Guest Author – Corey Perlman

Social Media Expert & Bestselling Author

perlman-c-150x150@2xRenowned for his ability to illustrate the strength and value of social media to audiences ranging from C-Suite executives to communications managers, Corey Perlman is the thought leader and speaker that corporations and associations, including Dale Carnegie Training, the Retail Leaders Industry Association, and the Dallas Cowboys turn to for expertise on remaining relevant in an increasingly competitive marketplace and rapidly accelerating business landscape. From generating leads through active monitoring and content creation, to incorporating the latest social commerce tools and SEO best practices, Perlman captivates audiences at his speaking events across the country as he helps organizations harness the power of social media in ways that directly impact their bottom line. For more information, please visit Corey Perlman’s webpage.

Social Media Overload

 Free Copy of Social Media Overload!

The Speaker Experts have acquired 30 copies of Corey Perlman’s book Social Media Overload! Simple Social Media Strategies for Overwhelmed and Time-Deprived Businesses, and would be delighted to send you a complimentary copy. Please contact us via our blog, email, or telephone.

Gary McManis & Jay Conklin

The International Association of Speaker Bureaus is the professional association that sets the standards and professional practices for the speaker bureau industry. Its members share a common passion: making a difference in the lives of others through the power of speech. The association’s membership is comprised of most of the world’s leading speaker bureaus and speaker management firms.

IASB held their 2016 Annual Convention last week at the Iberostar Hotel in Cancun, Mexico. Speaker bureau owners and executive-level employees converged on Cancun Iberostarto network, discuss business practices, strategize for business growth, and preview speakers tied into the meeting theme “Disrupt, Innovate, Thrive.” The latter is of particular relevance to the reader of this blog, who is tasked with evaluating and scheduling professional speakers. IASB can have their pick of the world’s leading speakers, as an invitation to speak before these high-powered speaker “agents” can result in increased income and demand on the association and corporate speaking circuits. Below are the speakers selected to present at the 2016 IASB Annual Convention. They represent a combination of established speakers, celebrities, and up-and-comers:

From left to right and top to bottom: Tim Sanders (CMI Speaker Management),  John Heffron (John Heffron), Lynn Rose (Lynn Rose), Robert Cialdini, PhD (Influence at Work), Felipe Calderon, Mike Walsh (CMI Speaker Management), Mel Robbins (See Agency), Freddie Ravel (Freddie Ravel), William Taylor (Washington Speakers Bureau)

You can reach these speakers or the speaker’s representative by clicking on the provided links. The Speakers Experts have firsthand experience with most of these speakers, but we are looking forward to doing our homework on the few we have not worked with in the past. Being selected to speak to the IASB membership is a prestigious and much sought-after honor in the professional speaking community. A speaker who receives such an invite most certainly knows his or her way around behind the podium and on stage. Of course, as we have repeated in this blog over the last few years, it does not mean that these speakers are always the right fit for your audience, meeting, or desired outcome. Your preferred IASB-member speaker bureau is a great first step to finding the right speaker for your next meeting.

Gary McManis & Jay Conklin

So what is the difference between a humorist and a comedian? There are many ways to approach this question, but The Speaker Experts have turned to the words of celebrated humorist and speaker Jeanne Robertson for the answer:

Humor is not about one-liners or being able to tell jokes. It’s about accepting things about yourself that can’t be changed and finding the humor in situations around you. Things happen on a daily basis that are really funny, but people often let the funny stuff get away, either because they don’t notice it as funny, or they don’t make it a priority to look for it.

The eight personalities listed below are among the most popular and most-requested celebrity humorists and satirists available to meeting planners. Humor is found within the context of their stories as opposed to the usual one-liners and jokes.

Garrison Keillor
American Storyteller and Writer
Laughter, song, and American values on stage

Dave Barry
Bestselling Author
Crockett and Tubbs are the second most famous personalities to come out of Miami

Bill Bryson
Acclaimed Author
Humor is always better with a British accent

PJ O’Rourke
Journalist and Writer
At the intersection of William F. Buckley Jr. and Art Buchwald

Mark Russell
Political Satirist
The Shoreham Hotel is long gone but Mark Russell is going strong

Scott Adams
Creator of “Dilbert”
The wisdom of “Dilbert” comes to the podium

Rick Reilly
Sportswriter and Commentator
There is often humor in the drama of athletic competition

David Feherty
Golf Broadcaster and Author
You don’t have to be a golfer to enjoy his presentation, but it helps!

The benefits of humor to the meeting industry are well-established. A humorist can be used to set the tone for the meeting as an opening speaker, to send attendees home on an upbeat note as the closing speaker, or in an informal, after-dinner setting. Humor reduces stress and encourages cohesion among meeting attendees that will result in a more positive and productive meeting experience. Finding the right humorist for your event is like discovering lightning in a bottle – of course, putting the wrong humorist in front of your membership or employees can be a disaster. Not every humorist, no matter how well-known, is right for every group. When it comes to identifying a humorist for your next meeting, The Speaker Experts strongly suggest contacting a IASB-member speaker bureau to maximize laughter and minimize risk at your next meeting.

……a duck and a lecture agent walk into the a bar and order two whiskeys. The bartender says to the lecture agent, “How are you going to pay for these drinks?”. The lecture agent points to the duck and says, “I’m going to put it on his bill!”. Tip your waiters and waitresses! The Speaker Experts will be back next week to finish this post by looking at the leading humorist speakers from the non-celebrity category.

Gary McManis & Jay Conklin

Washington Speakers Bureau has recently partnered with eSpeakers to create an online directory of speakers in the $10,000-or-below fee range. The service is designed to be a resource for meeting professionals with speaker needs and a limited budget. WSBDirectConnect suggests that meeting planners use their directory as a shortcut to contact both up-and-coming talent scouted by WSB, and seasoned professionals who have been speaking for years instead of a generic Google search. The Speaker Experts were intrigued by this =concept so we decided take the WSB cyber-speaker “dealership” website for a test drive.

In order to report our findings, we borrowed a format used by our favorite Washington Post “On Wheels” Automotive columnist Warren Brown.

racing cam

Ride, Acceleration and Handling: The site gets high marks in all three areas. The speaker name recognition acceleration lacks the performance of a 6.2 Liter Hemi V-8 Challenger Colin Powell or Condoleezza Rice engine, but it compensates with nimble handling and elegantly outfitted options in every speaker category.

Engine Transmission: WSBDirectConnect appears to be equipped with supercharged, intercooled bandwidth that provides the driver with a blend of quick video-search capability, switching comfortably from speaker to topic area and back.

Safety: This is not a “full service” bureau site so you will not have the standard airbag, insurance and safety features enjoyed by those working with a “full service” bureau. However, the driver can feel comfortable that all of these speakers have been vetted by WSB and have undergone rigorous evaluation and inspection.

Head Turning Quotient: The site is turning heads within the speaker bureau industry as the luxury brand leader enters the mainstream shopping center parking lot market.

spark plug

Price: Per advertisement, the price as tested for these speakers is $10,000-and-under.

Capacities: This is perhaps the largest collection of speakers in the $10,000-and-under range on the Internet and certainly the best curated with ample room to add more.

Mileage: When utilizing speakers in the $10,000-and-under fee range, it is possible to receive more “contractual” mileage out of these speakers than their luxury brand counterparts. It is not uncommon for speakers in this fee range to add secondary sessions and other “value-added” components at no additional price.

Bottom Line: The Speaker Experts work for a speaker bureau and on the surface a site like this could be seen as a “threat” to our industry; however, TSE do not view the emergence of WSBDirectConnect in this manner. “Full Service” speaker bureaus are not going to be the solution for every group looking for a speaker – there are organizations and executives who have the time, preference and desire to research, vet and hire their own speakers. For those that fall into this category, WSBDirect Connect is a neat specialty tool to have in your meeting planner tool box. Overall, we are very impressed with this site but feel that technology will never fully replace the human connection of working directly with an industry expert from a world class speaker bureau. A speaker bureau agent you can trust will be your universal tool to research, consult and vet speakers. Learn about finding such an agent in our blog post “Ten Questions to Ask Your Speaker Bureau” (Part One and Part Two).

Gary McManis & Jay Conklin

In our inaugural post “Speaker Recovery Options in First Tier Markets”, we pointed out that despite the most careful and detail-oriented preparations and planning, speakers do get sick, or have family emergencies or travel problems that can cause them cancel. The Speaker Experts strongly recommend you have a speaker recovery plan in place before traveling to your meeting. While the resources in “Second Tier Convention Markets” can be scarcer than their larger counterparts, they are out there and available to the forward-thinking event planner. Here are 3 pre-event precautionary procedures you can undertake to help deal with a last-minute speaker cancellation:

  • Mine the local universities and television networks for talent. Often you will find a well-known, local celebrity who knows their way around the speaker stage. (A local or regional speaker bureau might be worth a call as they typically have a handle on this type of talent).
  • Hire a speaker to attend your event and be on stand-by. We recently worked with a major insurance company who was concerned about the logistics of getting their speakers to an obscure location. The solution was to hire a well-known NBA broadcaster to attend the entire meeting and be there on stand-by. While his skills were never needed, his presence provided a nice insurance policy for the event planning team.
  • Have a handle on professional speakers who live in the area or are a short drive away. Below is a list of popular second tier convention cities and a selection of high impact speakers who reside nearby:
Mobile, AL
Fred Haise
Apollo 13 Astronaut

Mesa, AZ
Captain Mark Kelly
Commander of Space Shuttle Endeavour

Vail, CO
Aron Ralston
subject of 127 Hours

West Palm Beach,FL
Jim Knight
frmr. Director of Training at Hard Rock Int.
Mike Abrashoff
frmr. Commander of the USS Benfold

Shreveport, LA
General Russel L. Honore
Commander of Joint Task Force Katrina

Baltimore, MD
Commander Kirk Lippold
Commander of the USS Cole

Jackson, MS
General Russel L. Honore
Commander of Joint Task Force Katrina

Indianapolis, IN
Derek Daly
Author and international racing champion
Scott McKain
customer experience expert, best-selling business author
Wildwood, NJ
Stuart Varney
FOX Business News Host of Varney & Co.

Albuquerque, NM
Mike Mullane
career NASA astronaut and author

Cleveland, OH
Jim Gilmore
author and sought-after consultant

Pittsburgh, PA
Rocky Bleier
frmr. Super Bowl champion

Columbia, SC
Frank Abagnale
subject of the film Catch Me If You Can

Salt Lake City, UT
Adrian Gostick
best-selling author of The Carrot Principle

Virginia Beach, VA
You are on your own!

Milwaukee, WI
Dan Burrus
best-selling author, business strategist and technology futurist

Providence, RI
Michelle Stacy
frmr. Green Mountain Keurig President
Mike Eruzione
Captain of the 1980 US Olympic Hockey Team and subject of Miracle


These preparations can be initiated with just a few hours of internet research or by reaching out to the IASB-member speaker bureau of your choice. On a closing note, congratulations to Elaine Howard of the Mortgage Bankers Association of America. Her name was drawn from over 100 entries for the signed Billie Jean King tennis racquet!

Gary McManis & Jay Conklin

The American Program Bureau is a pioneer in the speaker bureau world. Based out of Boston, the firm was founded in 1965 by Robert P. Walker who quickly developed a loyal customer base in the college, town hall and community forum markets.

The Speaker Experts have come across a neat feature on APB’s website that is a great resource for corporate and association meeting planners. The tool is called “American Program Bureau’s Event Tie In List”: it is a list of speakers booked for upcoming engagements, and organized by event date and location. A screenshot is below:


This information can be used in a variety of ways but has two great applications for anyone who schedules speakers:

    1. If you are planning a meeting in a location where APB has one of their speakers scheduled, you maybe able to secure a discounted fee because the speaker will already be there.
    2. If you have already scheduled your speaker in a city where one of these speakers is booked, this list can be a great insurance policy if an unforeseen professional commitment or act of god forces your speaker to cancel at the last minute.

The APB Event Tie In List is available to APB VIP subscribers. The Speaker Experts have no affiliation with APB but we do offer a tip of the hat to this old-line speaker bureau for some creative forward-thinking. There are a ton of speaker bureau websites floating around in cyberspace, but few offer this kind of real-time, useful information.

Gary McManis & Jay Conklin

One of The Speaker Experts favorite speakers is General Russel L Honore. He is probably best known for serving as the Commander of Task Force Katrina, responsible for coordinating military relief efforts for Hurricane Katrina in the affected areas of the Gulf Coast. Today, Honore is retired from military service and is an in-demand speaker on the topic of leadership and preparedness. When it comes to preparedness, he is fond of saying, “…ya gotta stay to the left of disaster….” In the meeting industry, a cancellation by your keynote speaker within 24 hours of the presentation might count as a disaster. The Speaker Experts have a few ideas that will help you “stay to the left” when a speaker does cancel.

Flight Cancelled

Since The Speaker Experts work for a speaker bureau and have a dog in the hunt for speakers, we do believe that calling a speaker bureau is a good recovery option in a situation where a speaker cancels last minute. When on site at a meeting, you and your team do not have time to track down and evaluate speakers. In fact, we would suggest calling a major speaker bureau if the cancellation occurs within 24 hours of the presentation. A major bureau affords you the following advantages:

  • A large number of people on-staff that can mobilize and solve your problem. As a meeting planner, you have too many moving parts while on-site at a meeting to be calling speakers to see if they can jump on a plane. A bureau can create a task force from their staff to solve the cancellation issue at hand. (At Keppler Speakers we call this a “Code Red Team”).
  • Major bureaus often have dozens of speakers scheduled across the country on a given day. It just may be that they have the right speaker already booked in your event city the same day as your meeting.

If you are not inclined to call a speaker bureau, we suggest considering some of the precautionary measures well before the meeting takes place. Having a back-up plan to implement if a speaker cancels is always a good idea:

  • One trend we are seeing is the use of a contracted substitute speaker. In this scenario, you actually book a back-up speaker to attend the meeting. While it can be a costly insurance policy, it will give you peace of mind. If the substitute speaker is not needed, they provide a neat option for the following year as they learn a lot about your members and attendees by spending a few days with them in this setting.
  • Explore the resources provided by local universities. Often you can find world class economists, business leaders and human resource experts willing to speak at the last minute. The key is establishing a relationship with the targeted speakers prior to your meeting.
  • Understand the speaker talent that lives in your meeting city. Our blog post “Speaker Recovery Options in First Tier Destinations” will give you some ideas for speakers in major markets. The Speaker Experts are always happy to provide a list of speakers in which you are holding your event. Knowing the speakers living in your event destination and if they are in town during your event is good information to have before you leave for your meeting.
  • Local TV and Radio stations can be good sources for meeting hosts, emcees, and on-camera talent.
  • Major and Minor league sports teams can be good options to turn to for high-impact, motivational or teamwork speakers.
  • Know what other major meetings are taking place concurrently at your destination. You would be surprised how many times we have solved a cancellation situation with a speaker who is already in the same hotel speaking on the same day for another organization.

Proper planning, research and attention to detail is always the first line of defense against a speaker cancellation; but sometimes, there is nothing you can do to prevent them. At the end of the day, you always want to have a plan B. In our world, B stands for (speaker) Bureau, but it is not your only option.

Gary McManis & Jay Conklin

One question The Speaker Experts hear on a daily basis from clients is “Will the speaker tailor their presentation for our group?” A direct and seemingly simple question, the answer in most cases is “yes”. However, when you have a candid conversation with professional speakers about presentations that did not go well, the common denominator is often the concept of speech customization.

The Speaker Experts feel there are three degrees of speech customization. Understanding where your speaker falls in this continuum of tailoring is the key to minimizing the risk of disappointment when it comes to the speaker’s customized content for your organization. Let’s examine these Levels:

No Speech Customization: These speakers are master storytellers, and their speech is an emotional roller coaster of a tale that tends to be synonymous to a one man play. Examples of speakers at this level are Gene Kranz, Flight Director of Apollo 13, and Dr. Beck Weathers, whose story is chronicled in the best-selling book “Into Thin Air” (the film adaptation is slated for release next year, starring Jake Gyllenhal and James Brolin as Dr. Beck Weathers). When these speakers tell their stories, it is up to each member of the audience to pull out content relevant to their personal life and career.
A breakdown in communication can occur if a speaker bureau sends a standard event questionnaire to the sponsor asking for detailed information and implying that the speaker will customize their presentation.

Standard Speech Customization:Most professional speakers will fall into this category. Clients receive an event questionnaire and participate in pre-event conference calls with the speaker to discuss the meeting and desired outcome for the presentation. Clients can expect the speaker to have an understanding of the following:

  • Who is in the audience and why they are there
  • The meeting theme and challenges facing the audience
  • Acronyms to use/not use
  • Where the speech fits into the meeting scheme, and the desired outcome for the presentation
  • Politically-sensitive areas to avoid during the presentation
  • Who else is speaking at the event and how said speaker’s content compares

Deep Speech Customization: This process combines the aforementioned components of standard speech customization, but can also include the following tools to help the speaker get a deeper understanding of the organization:

  • Multiple meetings with the organization’s leadership at various levels
  • Meetings with the organization’s clients, and in some cases, competitors
  • “Mystery” visits to franchises or places of business
  • Post event de-brief papers and follow-up
  • Social media pre- and post-event presence

The tailoring of a presentation by a professional speaker is an important element of the speaker bureau-speaker-client tripartite, and all three parties must be on the same page for the process to work effectively. If executed properly, a tailored speech is a work of art that will have a long-term impact on your audience.

The one trap to avoid is pushing the speaker into changing or customizing the presentation past their capabilities or comfort zone. You would not walk into a 5 star restaurant and tell the chef de cuisine, “I’ll have the Malaysian Beef Curry but replace the beef with fish, leave out the red shallots and double the ginger peel”. The dish-and the dining experience-would be ruined, as would being overly-enthusiastic about altering a speaker’s presentation. Show the speaker which a la carte options you would like and leave the recipe for success to the speaker. They have cooked this dish a thousand times and know what works!

Gary McManis & Jay Conklin

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