hey, i know you!

Brand name talent.  Ugh.  And, aahhh.  There’s nothing like working with a professional speaker/singer/entertainer, is there?

They’re a pain in the backside, and they’re a blessing.  They know exactly what they’re supposed to do, and they usually do it exceedingly well.  But they can be SO high maintenance, SO expensive, and SO intimidating!  Are they worth the trouble?



OK, so I’m generally in favor of a “known” keynote.  Provided they are relevant to your audience.  And, that’s the key.  A brand name speaker’s success and value to your event hinges much more on YOU than on THEM.  Pick the right speaker for your demographic, and you’re picking a winner.

Say you have a group of hardware executives.   Generally (and stereotypically) male, middle-aged, cigar-smoking, Scotch-drinking, good-old-boys.  I’m oversimplifying for the example, here, so play along.  You wouldn’t hire Mary Lou Retton or Emeril Lagasse and expect to have a sell-out crowd, right?  Those two would be way out of context with this group.  But bring in Mike Ditka or Alan Greenspan and things are looking up.

Context.  Relevance.  Content.

Oh, yeah, content.  Mike Ditka might be a super-cool and entertaining person (I’ve met him on a number of occasions, and wish he was more relevant to my own association so we could bring him in), but unless his message is also relevant to your group, he might not knock it out of the park (does that count as mixing metaphors?).  Twenty minutes of talk about the state of football and where he thinks it’s going is great and all, but your hardware execs might still feel their time was wasted if that was his whole message.  But, twenty minutes of talk about how to be a leader in your field, or how to motivate your “players”, and suddenly Da Coach has added something potentially useful to their lives.

More on how to work with brand name talent next time.


5 thoughts on “hey, i know you!

  1. Josh says:

    I hear you…that’s why it’s good, especially when dealing with higher budgets, to develop a relationship with an agent at a speakers bureau. Not only can agents guide planners towards the right speaker (making sure the message is relevant to the group) and act as a barrier between the planner and speaker (takes care of the SO high maintenance and SO intimidating), but also agents can help negotiate price- they know how flexible the speaker is, what his/her schedule looks like, etc…

    Josh White, jwhite@apbspeakers.com
    American Program Bureau

  2. Jeff Hurt says:

    I think audiences are usually blinded by the star quality of a marquee name than lesser know professional speakers. Often, the star factor seems to eclipse the value of the presentation. The attendees just want to say they saw “so-and-so” and get their picture or autograph if possible. When you find a headliner that delivers a presentation with content, context and relevance, you have a home run that everyone will remember for a long time. Marquee names do help to put butt in chairs even though they are often very high maintenance and expensive.

    After hiring thousands of speakers, both famous and not so famous, I’ve learned to ask for the moon in the contract process, especially from marquee names. I often will ask them to do a meet and greet with a photo line before or after their speech, a private meet and greet for 100 or less VIPs or Board of Directors, a video or phone recording to use for marketing the event and an autograph signing session. It doesn’t hurt to ask and often they agree to everything. If I’m going to pay five to six digits for their fee, might as well get as much from them as I can.

    • Krys Slovacek says:

      Jeff – thanks for weighing in! I, too, shoot for the moon when contracting a famous name speaker. We ask for all kinds of “extras”, and are rarely denied any of our requests outright.

      We’ve done meet-and-greets with our Executive Committee and VIPs, and they’ve gone well. Autographs are always a big hit – especially if the famous person has a book or other product they’re trying to promote.

      Haven’t tried the video/phone message yet – that’s a great idea!

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