Keynotes. The boon of the conference world and an anxiety inducing responsibility for any planner.

The perfect one will leave your audience dazzled and an inept one will leave everyone with a sour taste in their mouths. An opening keynote sets the tone for the week(end) while the “breakout” leaves employees thinking. A proper closing keynote wraps it all up and sends them on their way, inspired.

No pressure, right? With the world of expert speakers growing every day, the options are expanding while true expertise is getting harder to find. That said, the demand for speakers is also increasing.

Following are five critical topics you need to bring up with your speaker bureau before booking talent.

5 Things to Ask Your Speakers’ Bureau

  1. Have you seen your speakers, speak? You’d be surprised how often an agent or a bureau have signed someone without ever seeing them live. While this does not reflect anything negative on the agent, it can be helpful and reassuring to know they have seen a particular speaker in action.
  2. Will you be on-site at event? This is not necessary but can be helpful if the speaker is not their exclusive. This ensures a bit of quality control and takes some responsibility off the planner on the day of event.
  3. Will we have an advance call? Having a call with both the speaker and end client will crystalize expectations. Points of discussion are takeaways, expectations, book signing and more. This also creates a rapport between the speaker and client, ensuring no awkward moments on the day and a general feeling of ease. Remember, speakers get paid big bucks to speak for one hour, give or take. So we want the client to feel it’s worth it.
  4. Let me see the rider, ASAP! A speaker’s rider includes the necessities specific to them. So the meeting planner should be sure to request this at the very beginning of the contract negotiation process. This can avoid any confusion or unforeseen expenses once contracts have been signed.
  5. Can you hold the date? When there is genuine interest in a speaker for a certain event date, feel free to ask the agent to put a soft hold on the speaker’s calendar. While this does not guarantee exclusivity, it ensures that the agent will check in with you before booking that date with someone else since you had “first-dibs.” If you do not ask for a hold, there is a great likelihood the speaker will no longer be available by the time you make your final decision.

Even More Tips for Finding the Right Speaker

Ten years ago keynotes were often internal employees or C-level executives that shared their expertise within their industry. Now, speakers run the gamut, from major business speakers to niche speakers on cryptocurrency, AI and even feng shui! So, what is a meeting planner to do?

Often, they search through alumni, industry experts and the like hoping to find someone with the right voice for this particular year. They watch thousands of speaker videos, weighing the pros and cons.

One is entertaining while the other is extremely polished. One has slides while the rest do not. And this is all while having, you know, the rest of the event to plan.

[Meetings Today Podcast: Need to Know Tips for Booking Your Next Speaker]

Enter the speaker bureau. They have been around for years in this once small market, catering to the needs of planners in every genre. And as their industry has exploded, so too have their rosters and understanding of what makes a great speaker.

So, the question remains: Why is a speaker bureau a meeting planner’s best friend?

This is a multi-level question. At the most basic level, bureaus obtain the budget, event type and theme for any particular meeting/conference/event. They then apply this info to their vast database of speakers. Once they have some well-matched options, they present them to the planner.

So, they do the heavy lifting (ahem, filtering) for them. But it goes much further than that.

What Separates a Good Speakers’ Bureau From a Bad One?

A good bureau—specifically a good speaker agent—goes many steps further. I personally take pride in not just presenting a great list of speakers but in curating the list with choices that truly fit the event.

Call me an event matchmaker, but this means I spend the extra time to not only match the criteria, but to really find out what the client’s goals are for their event, and then pair them to speakers who will fulfill those goals. Is the client hoping to inspire his employees?

[Related Content: Why Would I Use a Speakers’ Bureau?]

Perhaps he or she wants to instill a sense of pride and community in them? Maybe their industry is particularly traditional, and he or she wants to invigorate the company culture with fresh ideas more akin to the future? Is the demographic Millennial and Gen Z? Or Boomers? Maybe a mix of both?

How can the speaker help bridge that gap?

This not only ensures that the planner will get a choice their client loves but that everyone goes home with a sense of fulfillment. That they did not just “fill a role” or “get it done.” Instead, actual change took place in the hearts and minds of everyone who was part of the event.

Creating a Speaker Safety Net for Your Event

There are many other reasons that speakers’ bureaus are a great option for planners.

They ensure a safety net. If a speaker gets sick or something happens at the last minute, the bureau can supply and/or source another similar speaker on short notice. They are also a relationship that the planner can count on year after year. It’s a “set-it and forget-it” relationship, if you will.

Many of my clients come back meeting after meeting because they know they can trust that I will deliver great options with the least amount of stress for them.

So, if you are a meeting planner who is hesitant to reach out to speaker bureaus because you are not quite sure what they do, take it from the mouth of the dragon. We are here to help you succeed and would love the opportunity to find you that perfect keynote speaker.

Christine Ahanotu is a speaker agent at the boutique speaker bureau AE Speakers, a division of About Entertainment. Relatively new to the industry, her goal is to bridge the gap between bureaus and planners so we can all go home happy. In her free time, she enjoys reading, gardening and spending time with her family.

Feel free to connect with Christine on LinkedIn or shoot her an email.