How to Choose the Right Keynote Speaker
To learn more about the secrets of keynote speakers, Executive Travel spoke with Katrina Smith, the president of Keynote Speakers (keynotespeakers.com), a speakers bureau based in Palo Alto, Calif.
Q. WHY USE A SPEAKERS BUREAU, WHEN YOU CAN CUT OUT THE MIDDLEMAN AND GO DIRECTLY TO THE SPEAKER?
A. There are a lot of reasons. First, we can tell a client which are the best speakers in any topic area or category. We have access to all the different speakers, too; we are not just working as an agent for one speaker. We are there to help in case of emergency. We are also able to interface with different speakers’ agents, so you don’t have to hunt for contact information. And the biggest reason...is that we are free to our clients. We get paid by the speaker. So you have all these benefits that would be valuable time-savers for meeting planners, but we don’t charge a fee for our services.
Q. WHO’S HOT RIGHT NOW?
A. Whenever a [presidential] administration changes, the “newly unemployed” are always popular. We’ve had a lot of inquiries about Condoleezza Rice, for example. People who have written bestselling books are extremely popular. Two that come to mind on the business end are Tim Sanders and Jason Jennings. One of our speakers is Guy Kawasaki, who has a recent book out. We did receive a lot of inquiries for Captain Sullenberger, the pilot who landed in the Hudson River.
Q. HAVE YOU EVER HEARD OF A SPEAKER SCREWING UP?
A. It is extremely rare for a speaker to do something malicious or offensive. In all the years I’ve been doing this, only one time has a speaker actually gone onstage and been nonsensical. I think that’s a pretty good track record. If a speaker does something that’s truly out there, we will work with the speaker and the client to refund their money.
Q. HOW ARE SPEAKERS’ RATES SET?
A. Speakers price themselves according to how often they want to speak. Some speakers want to stay on the road as much as possible, so they will perhaps make their fees a little lower than somebody else with a comparable background. I know speakers who speak 150 to 200 times a year. At the other end of the scale would be a celebrity speaker: They may speak once a month because that’s all their schedule can handle.
Q. WHAT ARE THE BEST TIPS FOR SAVING MONEY WHEN HIRING A SPEAKER?
A. First, things are a lot more negotiable now than they would have been a year or two ago. And some speakers have lowered their fees a bit. But the two best ways to save money on speakers are to look for people who are local, because travel is very expensive these days; the other good way is to create extra value for the speaker, either [by offering] two bookings or by having their books for sale at your event.