How to Get the Most From Your Investment in a Professional Speaker

You’ve reviewed all the promotional materials, you’ve watched all the videos, and you’re confident that you’ve picked the perfect speaker for your upcoming meeting. But you’re not quite ready to sit back and relax. There are still a few things you need to do to ensure that your speaker provides the kind of event that attendees will rave about for a long time to come!

8 Tips to Get the Most Out of Your Speaker

Once you’ve selected that perfect speaker, follow up with these eight tips for getting the most out of your investment:

1. Send your speaker lots of information about your meeting

Send your speaker lots of information about your organization and upcoming meeting.


Most professional speakers today provide pre-program questionnaires for you to complete. And while completing a lengthy questionnaire might seem like one more hassle in your day, it will pay off in a highly relevant presentation, tailored to your program’s needs. The more information you provide, the better. Your prospective speaker can always “edit down,” but he or she can’t ever “edit up”!

2. Partner with your speaker for the best results

The best professional speakers work closely with meeting planners to create an impactful presentation. A busy professional speaker addresses more than 100 audiences each year and is, therefore, a gold mine of ideas for meetings. So be flexible — explain what you have in mind, but also ask your speaker for his or her input. For example, I am a high-energy speaker who likes to move around — and into — the audience as much as possible. I appreciate it when I can work with the meeting planner and/or event coordinator to make that possible. Of course, if I’m asked to stand behind a lectern, I will do so. But rarely would that situation be as effective as one in which I had the freedom to move around (and the audio system to accommodate that).

3. Make sure your speaker receives a good introduction

Since the introduction creates credibility for the speaker and sets the tone for his or her entire presentation, presenting a good one is vital. A prepared introduction is always better than one that is off the cuff. When speaking, I always use a carefully designed introduction and ask the introducer not to interject things like, “Hey, I didn’t write this — I’m just reading it!” (And, by the way, introducers who think they are comedians are the kiss of death!) Obviously, you would hate to spend lots of time and money on a good speaker only to have his or her presentation diluted by a bad introduction.

4. Make sure the speaker can do a room check

Make sure the speaker has the opportunity to do a pre-meeting room check

I know few professional speakers who actually rehearse, or go through their entire presentation without an audience, simply because it is a poor use of the professional’s time and energy. However, speakers should always arrive in time to do a sound check, meet and work with the introducer, and deal with staging logistics. Trying to accomplish these things at the last minute only invites disaster.

5. Provide a good room layout

Even the best speaker can be handicapped by a poor room layout. Some of the most common layout problems include:

a. Chairs placed too closely together, causing audience discomfort.
b. The first row placed too far from the stage. I’ve found ten feet to be the maximum tolerable distance — anything farther creates an invisible barrier between the speaker and audience.
c. The center row is too wide. This problem creates two different audiences that the speaker must work, one on the left and one on the right. Six to eight feet is the right amount of space.
d. Poor lighting. Your speaker must be seen to be heard. Bad stage lighting can kill a presentation.

6. Introduce the speaker to key organization leaders

Unless your speaker is a celebrity, few people other than you will recognize him or her upon arrival. Therefore, give your speaker the opportunity to meet key corporate or association leaders. If a sponsor is involved, be sure to introduce them so that your speaker has an opportunity to say thank you. Meeting and talking to key people in advance gives a speaker the opportunity to reference those conversations and to reinforce points that are important to your organization’s leadership.

7. Host the speaker at pre-presentation events

If you would like your speaker to attend a reception before the meeting, keep in mind that his or her ability to do so depends on travel schedule, as well as a need for some pre-presentation rest. Also, be sure that someone is assigned to be the speaker’s host; i.e., to be responsible for introducing him or her to others. It is difficult for a speaker who is unfamiliar with a group to “cold call” people and make self introductions. Even the most gregarious of us do better at such events when hosted.

8. Make sure your speaker has a “good room at the inn”

Reserve a room for your speaker at the site of the presentation. If the site is a convention center, try to use a hotel close by. One of a speaker’s greatest sources of stress is having to factor in travel arrangements and time between a hotel and a presentation site that are miles apart. Also, don’t wait until the last minute to reserve a room, as primary hotels often sell out quickly. Try to honor the speaker’s room request. For example, I always ask for, but do not demand, a non-smoking room with a king-size bed on the concierge level. Why? Because spending 180 nights a year in hotels is draining! My commitment, as is the commitment of most speakers, is to be as energized and “up” as possible for every client. So I try to create a restful hotel experience for myself. I sleep in a king-size bed at home and try to match my hotel experience with that. Also, the concierge level often offers amenities that save my clients money, like a continental breakfast and assistance from hotel staff in troubleshooting problems or fulfilling special requests. It is a simple task to request a speaker’s room preference. And you might want to explain that a good experience for your speaker will result in great PR for the hotel.

Although these eight steps might seem like minor considerations in your preparation for a speaker’s presentation, let me assure you that they are important to the success of your meeting. If you pay attention to these easy-to-accomplish details, you’re guaranteed to get the most from your investment in a speaker!

by Mark Sanborn, CSP, CPAE

Mark Sanborn, CSP, CPAE is a professional speaker published in the areas of leadership, change management, customer service and teamwork. He works with business organizations who want to reach the next level of success and individuals who want to perform at their best. You can email him at, phone him at (800) 650-3343 or visit his Web site at