A conversation about hiring professional speakers with Anthony Trombetta, Director of Sales, ISSA, The Worldwide Cleaning Industry Association.
Interviewed by Ed Rigsbee, CSP, CAE.
ER: For how long have you been hiring professional speakers for the International Sanitary Supply Association (ISSA)?
AT: About 9 years ago I took over as ISSA’s Director of Education and that is when I started. Two years ago I was promoted to Director of Sales and the education department remained under my umbrella. Currently, my Director of Education and I work together on speaker selection.
ER: I understand that ISSA hires only one keynoter for your annual educational meeting?
AT: Yes, we generally want a household name for our keynoter. We select celebrities and political figures. We want our attendees to have a memorable experience. We also hope that by having a highly recognizable keynoter, they will help draw attendance to our meeting. Recent keynoters have included Jim Collins and Rudy Giuliani.
ER: May I ask the fee range for your keynoters?
AT: Sure, the fees for our keynoter start around $50,000 and climb to $100,000.
ER: For you’re your general sessions, how many do you offer and please share with me the fee range?
AT: Every year we put on about 20 to 25 general session programs, using 15 to 20 speakers. The fees for professional speakers range from $2,500 to $7,000. For a non-professional speaker we offer a stipend of about $500. Most speakers only present one session but about 20% present twice at our meeting.
ER: How do you go about selecting your general session speakers?
AT: I belong to a number of industry groups including NAW & AEA. At these meetings the topic of speakers is always on the agenda. I get recommendations from other association Executive Directors, I am fortunate to see a number of speakers present live, and we work with speaker bureaus. When none of these avenues yield the right speaker for a topic, we go to the Internet and search.
ER: How do you like working with bureaus?
AT: When they provide really good service, I enjoy working with bureaus. We ask a little bit more of our speakers than do many other organizations. We request three articles and a video session of about half an hour outside the meeting room. The bureau folks that help us facilitate that really do offer good service.
ER: Tell me about your own professional speaker searches.
AT: We will use the typical search engines, visit bureau sites and the like. When we visit a speaker’s web site; first we want video immediately available, second we are looking for content such as program titles and descriptions, and third we look for recommendations from past clients. I’ll overlook a less pretty and easily navigation able web site if I see in the speaker’s video that they are good and engage their audience.
ER: What kinds of general session presentations wow your attendees?
AT: Since ISSA moved from being only a distributor, to an industry organization, our meeting stakeholders are much more diverse. Attending are distributors, manufacturers, contractors, agents/reps, and end users. Therefore, we offer a mix of motivational, inspirational, interactive, and high-content general sessions.
ER: If a professional speaker or one of their staff wanted to initiate building a relationship with ISSA, how would they start?
AT: The first step would be to email a short note with a link to their video. I look at the video, and if I believe there might be a fit, I’ll bookmark archive the link and go back to it in December when we start our speaker selection process.
ER: Anthony, what is it that professional speakers do that simply drive you crazy?
AT: At the pre-hire stage, sometimes speakers will spend 30-40 minutes going over the content of their program. In my mind they are already hired and I just need the two-minute overview. Then at the meeting; I’d like things to go seamlessly. When speakers do not respect our process and system and want things like their room to be moved closer to the expo, want extra chairs brought in when the room is already over-capacity, or handouts distributed a certain way, it makes my life and the lives of my staff difficult.
ER: Why do you use professional speakers?
AT: For the quality of their programs; you get what you pay for.
ER: What topics do you see emerging where there is a need for more speakers?
AT: We are in an environmental age and there are very few recognizable names beyond Al Gore specializing in this area; sustainability and green topics will be more in demand in the future.
ER: What changes have you notice in the profession of speaking over the last decade?
AT: More professional speakers are willing to truly customize their programs for my meeting. Jim Pancero is an excellent example. I can have a two-minute talk with Jim about what kind of a program I need and he gets it. I have no worries; he will show up with just what I want.
ER: Does the Certified Speaking Professional accreditation have any meaning for you?
AT: Yes it does, especially when searching and finding a speaker that I do not know. If their video proves that they are good and they have the CSP logo on their Web Site, it puts them higher in my level of consideration.
ER: Anthony, 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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