A conversation about hiring professional speakers with Linda Keith, CMP, Vice President,
Meetings & Conferences, Macfadden Protech, producers of Pizza Expo® Tradeshows and Conferences and Pizza Today™ Magazine from Louisville, KY, Interviewed by Ed Rigsbee, CSP, CAE.
ER: For how many years have you been hiring speakers?
LK: About 38 years; first in the tobacco industry, then in healthcare and for quite a few years now—the pizza industry. We produce one to three shows a year and at our big event, the International Pizza Expo, we have about 6,000 attendees yearly.
ER: How many speakers do you hire each year for the International Pizza Expo?
LK: I hire about 30 speakers to fill about 50 seminars.
ER: Do you work with speaker bureaus?
LK: I used to but have not used a speaker bureau for about eight years.
ER: How do you feel about speakers selling from the platform?
LK: Keep it pure! We have a firm policy that seminars are to be educational, and not for selling. As a matter of fact, some of our exhibitors have requested to conduct educational seminars but if I allow one, then I’d have to allow them all. The same goes for content experts, share just your expertise. Otherwise rent a booth. I had a situation a few years ago where it was stated on three or four evaluations that the session was mostly about the speaker selling their product—I haven’t invited that speaker back.
ER: Does the Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) designation hold a meaning for you in selecting speakers?
LK: Yes, because I have earned my Certified Meeting Professional designation.
ER: How many CSPs did you hire for your last International Pizza Expo?
LK: CSP does not trump expertise; however two of the 30 speakers were CSPs.
ER: What role does the Internet play in your search for speakers? Do you do online research to find experts in a given field?
LK: Generally I rely on speakers submitting proposals rather than searching the Internet for specific content speakers. I do use the Internet to learn about speakers that have contacted me through mailed proposal, email introduction, and over the telephone.
ER: Many speakers author an electronic newsletter, do you actually like to receive these newsletters from speakers or are they a pain?
LK: I do enjoy receiving speaker newsletters and try to read as many of them as time permits.
ER: How do you determine who you want to take a closer look at? What’s the best way past the clutter and into the final four?
LK: Things are important top me.
- Convince me that your seminar, workshop or keynote is relevant to the pizza industry.
- Assure me that you will customize and be relevant, especially for pizza restaurateurs.
- I have to fill quite a large number of educational slots, can I afford you? It would be helpful if speakers posted their fees on their Web Sites so I could more easily determine if I could afford them.
ER: What do you typically pay a professional speaker for a 90 minute session?
LK: Three to four thousand dollars per session. I try to have a speaker deliver more than one presentation at the International Pizza Expo and generally negotiate with them for a discount on additional sessions. Generally seven thousand for multiple presentations by a single speaker is more attractive and cost effective; fewer speakers mean fewer hotel rooms and airline tickets.
ER: In selecting speakers, what percentage of familiar speakers as compared to new speakers do you choose?
LK: Since the International Pizza Expo experiences approximately 40% first time attendees each year, I try to add one or two new professional speakers into the mix for each expo. A new speaker might be one that we’ve never used or possibly one that we had used several years past.
ER: Is there an honorarium fee level below which you don’t even consider speakers, believing they must not be any good if their fee is that low?
LK: No, I don’t consider any fee too low. As a matter of fact, I use a large number of pizza industry executives because of their expertise. I pay their expenses and provide them with a modest honorarium to reimburse them for their time.
ER: Which is more important to you in your decision making; Web Site content and streaming video or direct personal contact with the prospective speaker candidate?
LK: I prefer direct contact first because I feel that I can learn more about the speaker by talking with them verses watching a video of their work. If the speaker is of interest to me following our talk, I’ll then ask them to send me a DVD. I prefer receiving a DVD over watching their footage via the Internet because much of what I have viewed via the Internet is still a bit jumpy.
ER: Given the fast changing audiences to whom we speak; how do you rate the following in order of importance, considering first that the speaker is rated excellent as a partner to meeting producers (original content, new ideas, audience involvement and interaction, entertainment, presentation skills, contrarianism, humor, political correctness, and fee)?
LK: First I want the speaker to be specific to the pizza industry, and then:
- Audience involvement
- New ideas
- Presentation skills
ER: Generally speaking, in your opinion what should paid professional speakers better understand about you?
LK: I do not want to be overwhelmed with a box of books, DVDs, and your other promotional materials because there simply is not enough time to go through everyone’s unsolicited materials. I simply want to know if you can deliver your material specifically customized to the needs of the pizza industry and if I can afford you. Let’s talk, but first please turn off your ego. I don’t need you to repeatedly tell me how good you are but would rather hear about what you’ve already done and who you have served.
ER: Linda, thanks so much for your time and insight.
Ed is the Founder and CEO of the 501(c)(3) non-profit public charity, Cigar PEG Philanthropy through Fun, and president at Rigsbee Research which conducts qualitative member ROI research and consulting for associations and societies. He has been called “the dynamite that broke up our log jam” by association executives—rarely politically correct and almost always provocative—and from a dozen years as a United States Soccer Federation referee, Ed calls it the way he sees it. Exceptional resources at www.rigsbee.com.
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