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.