Best Guest Speakers for Your Event: Answers to Your Questions

The best guest speakers share their top-notch messages across the world every day.

Usually, they are individuals with specific expertise and proven track records in their respective fields.

Some are motivation-driven, appealing to employees energetically. Others might be subject-bound experts, authors, or entertainers with themes applicable to their audiences.

Their presentations could include formal speeches, book launches, entertainment slots, product reviews, etc.

Here are four expert guest speakers to elaborate and share context about the speaking circuit…

1. The Best Guest Speakers Tailor Their Content to the Needs of An Audience

Dr. Elizabeth Lombardo, Ph.D., Transformational Speaker & Psychologist, Elizabeth Lombardo International, LLC

There are inspirational speakers (those who get you inspired to make change), transformational speakers (those who not only inspire change but provide training on how to implement it), celebrity speakers (hiring a known name) and survivors (those who have been through a significant challenge and come out better after it).

Guest speakers perform on stage if it is a big in-person audience, in a meeting room (for smaller in-person audiences) or virtually.

In fact, right now, the virtual market is very busy.

Many will go directly to the speaker via their website after hearing about them (such as an author of a book or an expert in the media).

Speaker’s bureaus are also a great way to find speakers. At no cost to the host, you can work with a bureau who will vet the speakers for you.

Bureaus know which speakers are strong and worth their price.

Bureaus can also do a lot of the work for you, such as provide you with a list of 5 speakers for you to consider after hearing your specific needs.

Guest speakers have a theme that they discuss. At the same time, a good guest speaker does extensive interviewing to determine the specific needs of that particular group so that the content is tailored to the specific audience’s needs.

As a licensed psychologist, transformational speaker and bestselling author of “Better Than Perfect: 7 Steps to Crush your Inner Critic and Create a Life You Love,” Dr. E’s national platform includes interviews by various national media outlets including The Today Show, GMA, Dr. Oz Show, Fox Business News, CNN, NPR, Forbes, Wall Street Journal and NYT. Shaquille O’Neal says “Dr. Lombardo is my Head Coach for happiness.”

2. Guest Speakers Are Also Brought in To Do Training

Alexia Vernon, Founder & President, Alexia Vernon Empowerment LLC

The most popular types of guest speakers include keynote speakers (who present at companies, conferences, professional associations, and college/school events) as well as breakout or spotlight speakers who usually present alongside other speakers at a conference.

Most breakfast or lunch-and-learn speakers who speak at meals are uncompensated or paid a modest honorarium.

In organizations, guest speakers are also brought in to do half-day and full-day training on an area of expertise.

Most of the above speaking engagements are currently being done via video platforms like Zoom.

Keynote speakers are usually booked by speaking agents/speakers bureaus, and in organizations, C-suite leaders will often bring in guest speakers they’ve heard elsewhere; although VPs of Human Resources or Training and Development will also book speakers on relevant employee development topics.

For conferences, the keynote speakers are usually picked by the most senior leaders and the breakout speakers are usually chosen via a conference committee based on a public call for speakers.

Alexia Vernon is a keynote speaker, speaking coach, and the author of Step into Your Moxie: Amplify Your Voice, Visibility, and Influence in the World. She shows entrepreneurial, organizational, and community leaders how to develop, pitch, book, and deliver transformational presentations and corporate coaching and training programs.

3. Guest Speakers Include Authors of Important Books

Prof. Janet Ruth Heller, Ph.D., Janet Ruth Heller Books

Guest speakers include authors of important books, college professors with expertise in an area of interest to a business or organization, travelers who have great photos of exotic places, actors who present parts of dramas or other works of literature, musicians or artists who share their work, heads of local organizations who have activities of interest to your group, etc.  

Some speakers educate members of an organization, while other speakers simply entertain the group. 

Guest speakers can do their presentations in any room that is large enough to seat the audience you want and that has the audiovisual technology that the speakers require. 

Some famous people have an agent who handles booking for them.

The agent will try to get a high price for any presentation and will make sure that any travel or meal expenses will be covered.

However, most speakers do their own booking.  

Most organizations designate a person or program committee to set up a speakers series.

The advantage of a program committee is that the different members of the committee will have more unique ideas about whom to bring. 

Members of a program committee often prefer a speaker whom they have heard before and liked. 

The committee can discuss the organization’s goals for its speakers series, topics of interest to the organization, and individuals who would be most appropriate to bring in.  

Some famous speakers charge high fees, so an organization needs to set up a budget for any speakers series.

Some groups prefer speakers who do not charge fees or who charge low fees. 

It is hard to tell from a flier what a speaker is really like. 

The publicity flier may have a photo of the presenter that is decades old and omit the fact that the speaker had a bad stroke a year ago and now has trouble talking.

Guest speakers must come on time, speak about a topic that the organization wants to hear about, be honest about fees, be willing to answer questions from the audience, avoid going over the time limit, and have the technological competence to do the presentation in the most effective way.

Janet Ruth Heller is a college English and women’s studies professor. She has published six award-winning books for children and adults and frequently appears as a guest speaker. Janet has also organized speakers series for ten different groups.

4. The Best Speakers Perform at a Variety of Events Across the World

Mona Dixon, International Motivational Speaker, Inspired By Mona, LLC

Guest speakers include those who give keynote speeches, those who lead seminars or workshops, and those who entertain.

Keynote speakers typically address all of the attendees, whereas seminar and workshop leaders speak to smaller breakout groups.

There are times where speakers may be the keynote speaker and a workshop facilitator at the same event.

Entertainment guest speakers may add in something else besides speaking such as painting, poetry or play a musical instrument.

Celebrity speakers are also entertainment guest speakers based solely on their names.

Some celebrities are not great speakers, however, the audience does not always care a lot as long as they get to see the celebrity live in-person.

Guest speakers also vary by being either informative by providing important and relevant information to an audience. 

In seminars, speakers can be demonstrative by showing how something is done or perhaps how a product is used.

Also, persuasive speakers are used to get the audience to behave in a certain way.

For example, a guest speaker at a fundraiser would be brought in to persuade the audience to donate funds to a specific cause or organization.  

Some events also use clients as guest speakers to provide testimonies or share their experiences.  

Speakers speak and perform at a variety of events all over the world, big and small.

Events include conferences, graduations, summits, corporate meetings, club meetings, schools/colleges, and fundraisers.  

Guest speakers are important for events because they bring in a new perspective, they are a fresh new face for the audience, or they are very motivating in a specific topic area.

Guest speakers can also be entertaining to bring fun to an event.     

Speakers can be booked by speakers bureaus, event committees, resource development staff at nonprofit organizations, CEOs, and event planners. 

How do you choose which ones to hire? Speakers are chosen based on:

  • Fee
  • Testimonials/References
  • Location (Cost to bring them in)
  • Videos and content that they have on the internet
  • Topic area
  • Can they increase ticket sales?
  • Past appearance: Have they used them before and want them again?
  • Ability to persuade, motivate, inform, and/or entertain
  • Speaking/presentation style

The responsibilities of a speaker change depending on the event type.

Some speakers literally speak and go home. Others may have to be a part of a V.I.P. Meet & Greet. 

Some speakers just speak once and others agree to speak multiple times if they are at a conference type event or if one organization has multiple groups to address such as a school with different grades.  

At some events, such as pitchfests, speakers may be expected to sell from the stage. Other expectations may be as simple as getting the audience to be motivated. 

Speakers are also responsible for speaking for a period of time agreed upon before the event.

Mona Dixon is an empowerment leader, U.S. presidential appointee, and speaking coach. In addition to helping others become public speakers, she speaks around the world for corporate philanthropic companies, schools, youth organizations, fundraisers, graduations, parent organizations, and homeless shelters.

So, what should one look for when selecting the best guest speaker possible? Here are two more tips to help you make the right choice: 

  • Before booking, you can request a few references from other people or companies who’ve hosted the person on previous occasions.

References are credible and will tell you if the orator was effective, reliable, and professional (ensuring that their subject was relevant, memorable, and entertaining).

  • Look for an enthusiastic streak. They’re the ones who’ll imbue your audience with the ingredients necessary to get them talking afterward. It makes sense that those who inform, educate, inspire, and entertain are the ones most likely to achieve the results you’re looking for.

Guest speakers can contribute immensely to your event.

Unfortunately, choosing a guest speaker that is not suitable, can also detract from it.

If you don’t do proper homework in advance, it can lead to the wrong choice.

Mia Arderne shares that it “requires drawing on your network of contacts, and having connections and a list of entertainers, speakers and musicians that you trust and can rely on.” [1]

Reference:

  1. A Day In The Life Of An Entertainment Events Manager (20 December 2016)  / auth. Arderne Mia. – [s.l.] : Oxbridgeacademy.edu.za/blog, Accessed on 27 April 2020.