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Tony D'Amelio

By: Tony D'Amelio on October 17th, 2017

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Event Planning Checklist: Think Backward When Booking Event Speakers

Speaking Industry


Choosing a speaker for an important event can become a frustrating experience. There are so many choices it can become difficult to know how to sift through them all. And then there’s the challenging process of getting all the stakeholders to agree on the candidate.

There is a way to draw out the best possible recommendations from whatever speaker resource you’re using. Back in my agenting days, I found a way of helping event planners think through their needs in a way that gave me the information I needed to adequately assist them. This short piece is meant to give you a solid strategy to include in your event planning checklist the next time the need to hire a speaker.



Think backward. The idea is to give your speaker resource you’re working with answers to a series of questions so they wind up with a clear picture of what speaker success would look for your meeting. Once you’ve clearly identified the target, recommending the right speakers is so much easier – and the chances that the speaker will be successful are improved considerably.

This all sounds like such common sense – and it is – but it’s not practiced very often. The benefits of doing so are great, especially when you’re working with a pro who really deeply understands the speakers that are available – not just their content - but their habits, quirks, and personalities.  



How important is social interaction?

With some events, there is a reception or meet and greet. Decide if social interaction is important to you. Some speakers are better than others at that kind of thing. Even big name speakers can be shy - and some small number may be aloof or not very friendly. Knowing the answer to this question can be really helpful to the person guiding you to the right speaker choice.


Is the credenza photo important?

Sometimes it seems that the whole point of the speaker at the event is giving VIP attendees a chance to line up for a photo op with the guest speaker. Not every speaker is credenza-worthy. The argument can be made that if the speakers aren't recognizable, the impact of the photo is lost. So this little detail can be very helpful in guiding your speaker Sherpa to the best choices for you.


Is the speaker’s main role to support or reinforce a branding effort?

Maybe the reason to have a speaker is more about enhancing your brand with the audience. Perhaps they’re VIP customers and prospects and the speaker’s message is intended to leave them feeling confident that their trust in you is well-deserved because your firm is leading-edge and focused on the opportunities that come with the future.


Context matters: getting the message right

There is contextual information that can be really useful to the process of eliciting speaker recommendations that are dramatically on target. Not all of these questions are right for every event, but you’ll get the idea from what follows on how to be helpful to your speaker resource.

I think the big question is this: how do you want the audience to be different once the speaker is done? What would you like them to walk away with - what is important to them?

Some information that helps drill down a bit more on that include:

Who is in the audience: senior leaders, front-line personnel, VIP customers, sales professionals, top dealers or distributors?

If you’re looking for a motivational speaker, what obstacles you’re trying to help people overcome?

Is the company/industry having a great year or a bad year? Is there a merger, sale, downsizing coming – any kind of organizational change is useful to know about. Those details are critical and because answers may lead to recommending very different candidates.


SUPPLEMENTAL READING:  Event Planning Checklist:  Part 1 – the VenuePart 2 - Pre-Event Tips and Part 3 - Onsite Event Tips



The point of hiring a speaker is to impact the audience and perhaps change the way people think about things. To achieve that result, thinking backward really does work. It draws out the best possible recommendations from whatever speaker resource you’ve working with. And if the speaker resource you’re working with isn’t prodding you for the answers to these questions, you can be well-prepared and provide them without their prompting. By starting at the end, with a clear outcome - it’s easier to get great advice on the candidates that will most closely match your needs.  At that point, booking event speakers becomes so much easier.

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About Tony D'Amelio

Tony has spent his career putting talented people and audiences together, first in the music business and later representing the world's leading speakers. After concluding 27 years as Executive Vice President of the Washington Speakers Bureau, Tony launched D'Amelio Network, a boutique firm that manages the speaking activities of a select group of experts on business, management, politics and current events. Clients include: Mike Abrashoff, Geoff Colvin, Katty Kay, Polly LaBarre, Vikram Mansharamani, David Meerman Scott, Bill Taylor, Bill Walton, and Bob Woodward.

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