What is a guest speaker and how do you find the right one?

by | Mar 30, 2022 | Business Growth

A guest speaker is a speaker who has been asked to speak at an event. They generally have little or no connection with the organisation running the event.

A keynote speaker will open the event, a guest speaker will not. A guest speaker speaks later in the day and their purpose is often to add a feel-good factor, to break-up energy or the routine of the event, or increase energy.

Here are a couple of examples:

It may be that your guest speaker takes centre stage:

  • At the end of the lunchtime session to energise people for the afternoon
  • At a morning or afternoon session to break up the routine
  • At the end of the day/ after dinner to ensure your audience leave on a high

Guest speakers can often be a celebrity who may provide some entertainment, inspiration or motivation. They may provide the after-dinner speech and provide some feel good, giving a special address before praising the efforts of others.

As an event organiser you would expect a guest speaker to support the central event topic and theme and add value, sharing their knowledge and perspective on a relevant topic.

Where do you find a guest speaker?

Generally, there are 5 options for finding guest speakers.

1.Ask a speaker agency to help – Agent’s shortcut the legwork because they get to the point very quickly. Once they know what you are looking for, they can very quickly give you options. They get the job done quickly and effectively and save you more than their fee! Agents are also realistic about budget and will tell you when you are dreaming and put sensible options in front of you. Also, when you book through an agent, you have the assurance that the speaker has already been vetted, because agent tend to only take on the best speakers. If you want to enquire about a speaker for your event use this form.

2.Use Google – Google is your DIY option and almost the polar opposite of using an agent. Here you scroll through websites and social media profiles and you watch hours of video. It’s a great strategy if you have all day, or have a very small budget and are prepared to take a gamble on a speaker that’s not yet proven good enough to find representation.

3.Get referrals from your network – your peers and contacts may likely suggest a name you hadn’t through about, didn’t know about or forgot about. It will shortcut option 2, in that you can focus your search to the ideas your network gives you… but be prepared to go on a few wild-goose chases!

4.Ask in a group – If you are in a social media group that has an events focus, then ask the group who they would recommend. Occasionally this strategy will come up trumps, but expect a deluge of ideas and pitches and be prepared to do the research on each speaker, as in option 2!

5.Ask your audience – Email or ask your audience who they would like to see at the next event. This may give you suggestions, but again, like option 4, you may find yourself with a long list and still have to revert to the long-winded option 2.

How do you choose a guest speaker?

As with a keynote speaker, the guest speaker should be able to motivate, inspire and entertain. Beyond that the right speaker for your event will come down to the purpose, vision and outcomes of your event. If at this point you are unsure about the purpose, vision and outcomes we strongly recommend you download a copy of our free guide for event creators – 3 Secrets of Successful Event Creation

Being clear on the purpose of the event helps you to align your speakers to that purpose. When you look at engaging your guest speaker you can now check them out against the event purpose and if you feel they could be good for your event, you will be in a position to tell them what the event is all about and ask them how their topic could relate to it. It’s a different conversation when you know the purpose of the event. When you don’t know the event purpose the guest speaker you choose will be selected from a random criteria that will likely not provide any tangible ROI.

When you have no idea of the event purpose a guest speaker may be selected from someone you saw on TV, a former sporting star or whoever is available that fits the budget. Again, this isn’t the best way to go about selecting a guest speaker.

Speaker Variety

To bring an event to life it’s important to consider the diversity of your speakers. If you want to engage the audiences minds you will want to consider how your guest speakers can bring in a unique angle or opinion that could be used in a debate. For example, if your guest speaker introduced a new angle, just prior to the lunchbreak, participants could be asked to explore the opinion over lunch.
Also, making sure to include speakers of different backgrounds such as sexual orientation, cultures and religions can create more depth and diversity and give an event or organisation deeper insights into a topic.

How do you allocate a budget for a guest speaker?

You may have a number of speakers at your event, perhaps a keynote speaker to open the event, people from within the organisation or industry throughout the day and a guest speaker to add energy or break up the routine over lunch. Every speaker needs to have a budget allocated against them. If the event is an internal event the internal speakers would likely be expected to speak free of charge, but if they have travelled from across the country or sea to be there, it’s expected that their expenses would be included in the budget.

A keynote speaker who opens your event, providing expert knowledge or understanding and kicking the event off, may be paid more than the guest speaker. A keynote speaker often has more to prepare and deliver, so it’s not unfair to tilt the budget in their favour. So, let’s say you have a £20,000 budget for the event speakers and you want a keynote speaker and a guest speaker. Perhaps you allocate £12,000 to your keynote and £8,000 to your guest.

Keep in mind however, that if you are looking for a guest speaker who is a well-known celebrity, you may end up paying more to have them, than the keynote speaker, who would add more value and ROI. We encourage you to think of the impact of a speaker who is more relevant, over a speaker who has more draw or more status, because status and draw do not always translate into impact.

If you have budget limits and you know what you can and can’t afford this can help you narrow down the speakers available to you. If you are open and honest with a speaker agent, rather than guarded, then an open and honest agent will immediately show you who is available to you for that fee. At this point you may well be asking, ‘Yes, but what will I actually get for my budget?’

So, let’s look at that next…

How much do you pay a guest speaker?

A guest speakers’ fees will vary depending on a number of factors. You would expect to pay more for a celebrity, a renowned industry expert or a professional speaker than you would for a guest speaker, who isn’t yet known.

Here is a general budget guide:

£500 – £1,500 – This kind of budget buys you a newbie. Speakers at this level will be trying to break into the circuit. They are trying out new material and honing their presentation skills. They will not have all their assets professionally developed, so they may not have a showreel or video evidence or a professionally written bio. This level of speaker is best suited to a small gathering.

£1,500 – £5,000 – Speakers at this level are usually taking public speaking seriously and looking to make headway as a professional, though speaking won’t be their only income stream at this point. In this category, you will likely find industry professionals and non-celebrity speakers with an average amount of experience. A speaker at this level will suit a modest-sized event.

£5,000 – £10,000 – Once you invest in excess of £5,000 per key note you can expect to be booking professional speakers. These speakers are accomplished and seasoned speakers who are regularly part of their profession. You can expect to find sports figures and athletes in this price band. You will also find published authors and business professionals at this level too. These speakers will be comfortable with audiences of any size and can adapt their key notes to a more conversational style for smaller gatherings, or manage many thousands.

£10,000 – £50,000 – Speakers at this level are well-known. They may be household names and you can expect their name to draw a crowd and add more value to an event. Whereas the previous category would get you an author, this category would get you a bonafide best-selling author. You would book this type of speaker for a high-level/ high class events or major corporate conferences.

£50,000 – £100,000 – At this level, you enter the upper tier of speaking. When you book a speaker at this level you are booking A-list speakers, most likely of celebrity status. At the £100,000+ level you are looking at famous politicians, extraordinary business leaders or sporting hero’s or icons. This category of speaker usually speaks at sponsored events or events that are held to honour someone or something.

Booking your guest speaker

Once you have decided on your guest speaker, as an agency we take you through a process, that allows you to meet the speaker and discuss the brief.

The speaker will want to know more information about the event, the audience and the theme and explore creative ideas around the topic with you.

Before and during this conversation, as an agent, we have been making notes on what should go into the contract for this booking. Having captured the detail, we will draft contracts and submit them to you for your approval, saving you time and effort of doing this.

The contract will lay out all the important details of what is expected.

We believe all guest speakers should be Stellar Speakers – able to entertain, connect with an audience and make a positive impact. As a unique speaker agency representing change-making keynote speakers, we provide expertise to help you manage your budgetary expectations and provide realistic options. We provide a preferred partner’s service base, so that partner clients get everything they need, lowering your risk as a booker of speakers, so you can make your choice about your next speaker with confidence.

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If your next conference is around the corner it’s time to book a consultation with Stellar Speakers.

Let us help you find the right keynote speaker to deliver timely messages, fresh themes and introduce the latest methodology and thinking.

Because our speakers are thought-leaders, industry expert and change-agents we help bring out the best in your organisation. Our passion is developing your people.

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