Inspired by the cover story in this month’s issue of Meetings and Conventions magazine, titled “The Frugal Planner: 10 Ways to Save Big,” we thought we would chime in with some money-saving tips specifically related to booking speakers. One of the M&C article’s 10 cost-cutting tips already relates to booking speakers, but a few of the others can also be applied to saving money on speakers:
- Attract sponsors. When the budget doesn’t allow you to secure the speaker you’re looking for, don’t give up hope before considering the possibility of sponsorships. If you’re going to have your entire audience in the same place at the same time – for the keynote speaker(s) – you have a great value proposition for potential session sponsors. Who wouldn’t love to have a captive audience looking at their logo on display behind the speaker for an hour, or have the opportunity to make a 30- or 60-second pitch just before introducing the featured speaker? (Here’s an article that outlines how a company can maximize the benefits of sponsoring a speaker’s session – you might want to adapt it for your “pitch” to prospective sponsors.)
- Choose local speakers. This has long been an effective tactic for reducing the investment required for professional speakers. The M&C article cites a study by the National Speakers Association which found that the average cost of a keynote address is 25 percent less if the speaker doesn’t have to travel to the event. Not only do you potentially qualify for a discounted fee by booking a local or regional speaker, but you’ll also avoid or at least minimize the speaker’s reimbursable travel expenses. (Check out The Speakers Group’s local speaker directory to find speakers based near your next event.)
- Be flexible with dates. You probably know how helpful this can be in negotiating with hotels and other venues, but did you know it also can have an impact on speaker fees? The Spring and Fall seasons are usually very busy times for speakers, but July-August and December-January can sometimes be a bit slow. It’s not a guarantee, but if you’re able to effectively host your program during an “off” month for speakers, you might find them more receptive to discounting their fee a bit to fit into your budget. And that’s not the only kind of date flexibility that can help you. If you can book a speaker around a date when he or she is already scheduled to appear in a nearby town, you’ll likely save money by having the travel expenses pro-rated between your organization and the other client. (In this kind of scenario, most speakers are not willing to offer the “piggy-back” client a discount on their actual fee, out of fairness to the original event host. But pro-rating expenses helps both clients.)
- Condense the agenda. If you need your speaker to deliver multiple sessions, try to minimize the down-time between the sessions. Most speakers have keynote fees, half-day fees and full-day fees. If you have the speaker for a keynote in the morning and a breakout in the afternoon, you’re almost certain to qualify for their half-day or full-day fee. But if you can schedule the two (or more) sessions close together, allowing the speaker to keep a travel itinerary similar to what they would have if they were only doing a keynote, then you might have some bargaining power. Every speaker is different, but I have known speakers to do two sessions for the price of one if both are held within a four-hour block of time.
- Reconsider value brands. The M&C article makes this suggestion for hotel bookings, but it applies to speakers, too. To use the recent Olympics as an example, demand for Michael Phelps is peaking right now – and rightfully so, given his amazing accomplishments. As the demand peaks, though, so does the appearance fee. If your budget doesn’t allow you to secure Michael, consider his relay teammate, Jason Lezak. Jason is also in high demand right now, but you might find him to be a greater value than Michael. Or as another alternative, consider Mark Spitz, the swimmer who won seven gold medals at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games, which had been the record until Michael’s achievements this year. Not only does Mark have a more reasonable fee, but he’s been on the speaking circuit for years and has a great, polished message to share. Beyond just the Olympics, this same concept applies to booking the co-author of business books rather than the lead author, booking a certified leader of a program rather than creator of the program, etc. (For example, check out Robert Thompson who is certified to deliver the popular Leadership Challenge material at a fraction of the cost of Jim Kouzes or Barry Posner.)
At The Speakers Group, we will always help our clients “save every penny possible without sacrificing quality” – to quote the M&C article – when booking speakers. We’ll take the time to understand your objectives and put together a gameplan that will allow you to meet and exceed expectations while staying within your budget. Give us a call or send us an email anytime. We’re standing by to help you make your next event the best ever.