Soliciting and engaging a guest speaker – budget or no budget

So, you want to have a guest speaker? You want to bring value to guests of a work, or social, event by livening it up?

As an author, and speaker, I track requests and have a procedure in place for processing inquiries, and for those of you who are asking, you may benefit from this perspective.

Over half of these are for pro-bono events, and while that is good to know, not all of them are opportunities and how they are presented absolutely matters.

If you have a budget, then please consider the following tips for your ease and minimization of time required going back and forth with the speaker or speaker’s agent, when asking an experienced speaker, or leader, to present to an audience to entertain, educate or both:

• Note your subject line or opening line in the conversation (don’t bury the lead) by stating that this is an inquiry to hire for service. Often, we are not sure based on an email, phone call or website inquiry.

• If you were referred by someone, minimally look at the speaker’s website, blog or social media before reaching out to that person. You may decide the person is not a good fit or you might be excited based on what you find.

• Know who the audience will likely be, demographically, and have a goal in mind for them from hearing the speaker’s talk or engagement. Is it inspirational, is it leadership ideas or is it something else?

• If you know the date, or have dates, time slots and locations in mind, share them immediately.

• Know if your budget includes travel or if that comes from another budget. Know if you make travel plans or if the speaker does, and if a guest is included.

• Videotaping is not part of a contract unless that is clear and there may be a charge for that.

• Anticipate that the speaker is to provide a contract, invoice, W-9 (or 1099, if they are not part of an organization but are a freelancer), a pitch for you to promote the event, key takeaways for the attendees, a short bio for print, a headshot and a long bio for your website and other promotional efforts. Ask for their social media links where they will promote the event, if it is public.

If you do not have a budget, or you thought giving someone a membership or that covering an entry fee to a conference was payment, those are not, they are courtesies, and in this case, you are asking for a free sharing of expertise, someone to volunteer their time, and voice, and minimally, for a pro-bono give. Below are some additional tips to consider in this situation.

• State in the subject “Request for Complimentary Speaking Engagement” or “Pro-Bono Speaking Inquiry for XYZ Charity.” Do not use the words “hire” or “opportunity,” or in any way act as though there could be a payment. If you’d like to film the event, disclose that immediately.

• When you approach the person, already have downloaded, and attached, a headshot and bio of the person from their website, Linkedin or other social media. They may change it, but this shows that you are willing to partner and work on this together.

• Ask the speaker if they’d like a contract and you provide it.

• Send all information via email and tag them in your social media without making changes to titles or anything they’ve provided.

• Anticipate that the speaker may provide a zeroed-out invoice for you to sign, to see the value of what you are receiving.

• Send a calendar invite to ensure you are on their calendar.

• If you have a small budget (under $1,000), do not consider this a payment, rather a stipend, and offer it as such. And if it is $500 or less, offer to donate to their favorite charity or send it as a stipend to that speaker (if you have no budget, consider personally offering to donate to that person’s favorite charity as a gesture of appreciation).

• Send a confirmation email 24-48 hours out stating the venue, address, room, number of attendees, the agenda, if you have it, and ensure the speaker has a mobile number for contact on that day.

• Let the group know in the introduction that the speaker gave of their time without using the word free in that mention.

Go ahead and ask. After all, guest speakers can be a huge added benefit and value to anyone attending a work or social function. ♦

Debbie Lundberg is the founder and CEO of the Florida-based national firm, Presenting Powerfully. She is an 11-time published author, certified virtual presenter, certified life coach, certified leadership coach and certified image consultant. Lundberg is a performance coach who co-hosts “The Business Of Life” master class podcast. Her 2020 book, Remote Work Rockstar, has become the guidebook for working and leading, virtually. Lundberg can be seen in her TED Talk, “Who Cares?”

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