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Ultimate Guide to Finding a Guest Speaker

Finding a guest speaker can feel like a daunting task. However, with a little preparation and a few tips, it’s actually getting easier and easier to find someone who will elevate your event and provide a great experience for your audience.

Having facilitated thousands of connections between guest speakers and businesses, clubs, schools, associations, and more, the team at Pickstar have pulled together their insights into this Ultimate Guide to finding a Guest Speaker.

Whether speaking to a room of 5 or 5,000, getting a few bits of information nailed down to start can make the whole process really simple and smooth.

Here are Pickstar’s tips, tricks, and more to finding the perfect guest speaker for any event.

Know your audience for your guest speaker

Before you do anything else when finding a guest speaker - make sure you know your audience.

They are, after all, the reason your event, conference, or exhibition is taking place.

Are you speaking to a corporate audience who wants tips on managing stress?

Are you speaking to students who would benefit from details about goal-setting?

Or is your audience medical professionals at the end of a long day of a conference who just want a laugh?

Determining who you’re speaking to and what they want out of your event is vital. It will lay the groundwork for everything that’s to follow in this guide.

Goals for your guest speaker

Theme

It seems obvious - you’re getting a guest speaker, so you know what you want the speaker to talk about. But having connected thousands of businesses and guest speakers, it’s not always the case.

You need to clearly define the topic and the scope within that topic, ideally before you reach out to any speakers. By all means, you can adjust slightly afterward or during negotiations, but having a clear theme will make it easier for the speaker to decide whether the opportunity is right for them.

For example, asking someone to speak about mental health is broad.

Asking someone to speak about 5 tips for managing mental health is better.

But asking someone to speak about tips for managing anxiety in a high-performance setting is best.

(by the way, here are Pickstar's mental health speakers)

Style and personality

Consider the style of your guest speaker and how they address an audience. Is it a more casual environment where a few jokes will fit in perfectly? Or is it a more serious, corporate situation where the speaker needs to mirror that style?

The theme and audience will help shape the style and personality you want from your guest speaker. Make sure you give some guidance on this, ideally in your initial brief out to prospect guest speakers, but it’s absolutely something you can address in the lead-up to the event.

Deliverables

A 30 minute Q&A is very different from a 60-minute keynote speech. Make sure you’re clear on the length required from the guest speaker, whether they need to arrive 30 minutes before their scheduled start time or two hours, and if there are any requirements after they’ve spoken.

Eventbrite’s Mel Kershaw says being clear with deliverables helps your speaker succeed and helps your event run smoothly. Make sure they’ve provided a headshot and bio well in advance of the event and ensure they send through their final presentation ahead of time.

Budget for a guest speaker

Sure, you might have some flexibility in budget based on the speaker, but start with a number in mind to help with planning. It’s important not to sell your budget short at this point - you might be surprised at what you can get for your budget. Got someone in mind but don’t think they’d do it at your price - put in a request and see how you go.

A rough guide for budget

As Dave Staughton says in his Guide to Conference Speaker Fees, the budget for guest speakers can range from free all the way up to $100k+.

Experience, expertise, age, alignment with speaking opportunity, fame, and more all impact the fee a speaker would be happy to work with.

From experience at Pickstar, the following is a guide for budgets for Australian guest speakers (for roughly 30-60 minutes, exc flights/accom):

  • $1,000-$2,500 - a more informal talk or Q&A format from a quality speaker with a solid knowledge of their topic, talking about personal experiences. An example might be a former sports star talking about their challenges with mental health and how they overcame these challenges.
  • $2,500-$5,000 - a well-known speaker with several years of experience speaking on a few different topics. This might be a talk on goal-setting from someone who has achieved at the highest level.
  • $5,000-$10,000 - an experienced speaker with years of experience on a topic, a high level of expertise, and well known across the country.
  • $10,000+ - a highly qualified speaker, renowned in their area and known in Australia and potentially around the world.
  • Smaller budgets - we can still place requests below these price guides, but you're less likely to get qualified, relevant stars applying for your opportunity at these budgets. We'd recommend pushing closer to the $1k mark if possible.

The above guide is not exhaustive and certainly varies significantly from speaker to speaker and event to event. If a guest speaker is passionate about your organisation, they may be prepared to do it for less than they would another organisation.

Travel and accommodation

You need to factor into your budget whether or not the speaker needs to travel from interstate or overseas. If so, have you discussed whether travel and accommodation are factored into their price?

As a general rule, if travel is more than 100km, involves a flight/train, or requires accommodation, you should be covering the cost for the guest speaker.

Be aware, some speakers will expect business class or similar. Just make sure this is covered upfront in your discussions and brief.

Contra

Sometimes guest speakers may be prepared to lower their fee slightly for a part contra deal. If you have a product or service the speaker may use or require, you could consider including it so your business can save a few dollars.

In-person or virtual

More and more, businesses, schools, and associations are turning to virtual solutions for events of all kinds.

The COVID outbreak changed the way we live and work, and businesses and speakers alike are now comfortable executing via a video platform such as Zoom, Teams, or Google.

Often, guest speakers will do virtual packages at a lower fee, meaning you can execute a great event at a lower budget. Consider whether this is an option for you.

Finding a guest speaker

You’ve done some groundwork, now comes the hard part.

Well, it used to be that way.

You’d spend hours searching for potential speakers online through Google, LinkedIn, and industry websites. You might have tried a speakers bureau, who would suggest a couple of speakers to you. But you’d never know whether these speakers really wanted to work with you.

Pickstar has flipped this process on its head, giving the power to both the speaker and you.

You’ve worked out your budget. Nailed your deliverables. You know the event date. All you need to do is enter that information on Pickstar’s proprietary platform, shortlist stars from our list of 1800+, and hit submit on a free request.

That request goes straight out to guest speakers and they apply to work with you. They know the budget and the brief when they apply, so you know they’re genuinely interested in working with you.

Now all you need to do is choose your speaker and pay a deposit, then you’ll be able to communicate directly with your speaker to iron out any final details.

Pickstar's guest speakers are available across Australia. Check them out here