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Find your voice

Top 5 considerations when hiring a conference speaker.

Robby Kojetin presenting Wheelchair to Everest
Robby on stage

Conferences are a fantastic way to engage attendees, share knowledge, but most importantly, spark inspiration. The success of your event hinges largely on the quality of your speakers. A captivating speaker can elevate the entire experience, while a mismatch can leave your audience feeling flatter than a jumping castle at a porcupine birthday party. So, how do you ensure you select the right voice for your conference and ensure your delegates leave with more than a goody bag and a hangover?

Here are the five most important things to look for when hiring a conference speaker:

1. Alignment with your conference goals:

It all starts with clarity. Before diving into speaker searches, define your conference goals. Are you aiming to educate attendees on industry trends? Motivate them to take action? Spark discussions on thought-provoking topics? Once you have these objectives in mind, you can select speakers whose expertise and message align with what you want your audience to gain.

If your objective is to inspire innovation, and motivate everyone from the CEO to the trainee clerk, a successful entrepreneur who overcame significant challenges could be a more impactful choice.

To quote Dr Patch Adams, “If you treat the disease, sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. But if you treat the person, you will every time.”

2. Expertise and Credibility:

Your speaker should be a recognised authority in their field, which is very often not a list of degrees or a fancy title. Look for individuals with a proven track record of success and a deep understanding of the topic they'll be addressing. Credibility can be established through a combination of factors: published research papers or books, industry awards, experience working with leading companies, or a strong reputation for thought leadership.

Don't be afraid to delve deeper. Research the speaker's past presentations, publications, or online presence. Look for evidence of their expertise and ability to translate complex information into an engaging format for your audience in a relatable and entertaining way.

3. Presentation style and audience engagement:

The delivery style is a biggy. You need someone who can capture the audience's attention, maintain their interest, and effectively convey their message. Ideally, the speaker should be a dynamic and engaging presenter. Just because the speaker doesn’t present in an Italian suit, doesn’t mean they are not great at what they do. Remember you are paying your speaker to bring a unique story, so don’t panic if they don’t like your audience.

4. Availability and Logistics:

Ideally, the speaker should be available on the specific dates of your conference and within your budget. Factor in travel costs, and any additional fees like accommodation if needed. This is the time to discuss presentation duration, technical requirements any other arrangements.

5. Professionalism and Communication:

Throughout the process, gauge the speaker's professionalism. Timely communication, responsiveness to inquiries, and a willingness to collaborate are all positive signs. A professional speaker will understand the importance of the conference and work with you to ensure their presentation aligns with your overall vision.

Look for clear contracts outlining expectations, fees, and cancellation policies. Life’s too short to deal with prima donna speakers who are difficult to get hold of or have a list of demands. It’s a conference, not the Golden Globes.

Also don’t be afraid if there is anything else the speaker brings to the party. I offer my clients a range of extras as a sign of good faith, even if it is discounted copies of my book, or bringing my Everest gear for people to engage with, or some tried-and-tested tips to help amplify the theme and objectives of their event.

Bonus Tip: Tangible Value

The issue of fees is always a matter for consideration. As the client, you have a budget to stick to and account for. As the speaker, this is how they earn a living. Remember that you are not paying for the hour on stage, but also whatever that person went through, to be in a position to share their story and everything that comes with it. Reducing the length of the presentation doesn’t translate to a lower fee.


Start a conversation where both parties could perhaps negotiate a way forward in terms of a trade exchange or value added services. Don’t throw in the towel if it’s not exactly what you have in mind. There is often a middle ground that can be agreed upon that leaves both parties feeling like they are getting fair value from the transaction.


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