Choosing a professional speaker is a choice we assist you with. To take the head ache out of your planning and organisation to ensure your event runs smoothly and professionally
 How to Choose a Speaker

1. Decide on the Theme

It's no use looking for a wildlife speaker, if your theme is Future Global Trends. If you're not sure whether there are any speakers who will cover anything related to your theme – ask a reputable agent. They will certainly be able to help you.

2. Ask Around

The very best way to find a good speaker is by word of mouth. If a speaker is good, trust me, the word will spread. This is a really small industry and it doesn't take long for a speaker to develop a reputation – either good or bad.

3. Phone an Agent

Of course, I'm completely unbiased on this one J. The value of an agent – I strongly believe – lies in his/her experience of which speaker addresses which topic best, to suit which kind of audience. However, beware! There are many people with Google and a cell-phone calling themselves agents – a good question to always ask is whether the agent has actually seen the speaker speak.

4. Shop Around


Again – a word of warning: there are agents; and then there are Agents! Ethical agencies are working hard towards a "one exit price" strategy with professional speakers, wherein their commission is paid to them from the speaker's fee, so that they don't have to "add on" to make their money. In the past, it was more than a nit of a free-for-all, and some hapless clients have been saddled with bills more than twice (or three times!) the speaker's fee! A good way to find out what you're paying is to ask the speaker!! Believe me, they'll also be delighted to help weed out the unscrupulous, greedy sods by telling you what their fees is. If an agency forbids you (or the speaker) to discuss fees – it's time you smelt a big, smelly rat!

5. Get references – verbal and written


Whether you book a speaker directly or through an agent, I believe it's always a good idea to get some references. Bear in mind that if an agent has seen the speaker in action, that should count as a strong reference in itself. No agency worth its salt and remotely concerned about it's reputation would want to place a speaker who's not worthy of flying their (the agency's) flag. If you're dealing directly with the speaker, get them to provide you with written and verbal references – and then, for goodness sake – check them! Phone the people. Remember that it's your reputation on the line, too.

6. Get a Contract


This is something that an agency will automatically do for you, s will any professional speaker worth their fee. Check the fine print, though, particularly with regard to cancellation clauses – I know of one speaker who insists on a 100% cancellation fee from the moment you sign the contract, regardless of how long in advance you either cancel OR postpone the event. This isn't a policy we endorse, so we don't work with that speaker, but for your own peace of mind, read the little words!

Something else to watch out for is travel costs. Some speakers will insist on flying Business Class, while happily most of them will fly economy, as long as it's a changeable ticket. Most speakers nowadays will want to do their own travel arrangements, as we prefer to do for our clients, too. We try and save money for you wherever we can and if we are able to book a really inexpensive ticket because we know the speaker's booking around that time and can thus book non-changeable tickets, we do. We absolutely believe that travel should not cost the same as the speaker's fee!

7. Insist on a Briefing


Many of our top-notch speakers are simply too busy speaking (and traveling to speak), to be able to do personal briefing meetings. However, at the very least they should agree to a telephonic briefing. The best way to make sure the speaker knows what you expect from him on the day is to give them both a telephonic and written brief. This way they have a black and white "back up" of their conversation with you. Any decent agency will send you a Pre-Appearance Questionnaire, which will greatly help you in getting the relevant information through to the speaker.

This way you will also have something to fall back on, in the unfortunate event of a speaker not fulfilling his brief to you. I once worked with a speaker who completely ignored the detailed (three hour long) verbal briefing as well as written (I personally delivered the pack of documents to him, in his hands) brief. He simply got up on the stage and delivered his usual "canned" presentation. He didn't give a hoot who he was speaking to, and even referred to the Chairman of the Board who had spoken immediately before him, as "that oke"! Needless to say my client was underwhelmed to say the least, and they haven't booked him since. Even more needless to say, neither have we!!

8. Check the technical rider


The what?? Yep, the technical rider. In the old days, we used to call this the speaker's equipment requirements. But that phrase is SO last century J. Seriously though, check out what they need carefully. Most venues do not supply proximas (that's a data-projector, by the way) and CD sound systems as standard equipment, and this could impact quite dramatically on your budget.

9. Do they belong to a Professional Association?


Finally, South African speakers can join the Professional Speakers Association of South Africa which is affiliated to the International Federation for Professional Speakers. They have to sign (and abide by!) a code of conduct and they do have to fulfill certain criteria to join. Check out the PSASA website at www.psasouthernafrica..co.za to have a look at their code of conduct and what the Association stands for. Then, ask the speaker you are interested in booking whether they belong to this Association, which stands for Professionalism and Ethics, and if they don't – why not??

I sincerely hope this helps with your next project, and please remember that you can call us for advice any time – we look forward to hearing from you!!

Bronwyn Hesketh
Bureau Principal