Interviewing Potential Speakers: 7 Questions to Ask

So you’ve determined the type of speaker you’re looking for, you’ve approached a speaker bureau and you’ve researched their suggested list of candidates to speak at your event. What’s the next step?

Once you think you’ve decided on the speaker you’d like to book, it’s important to actually speak with the person to make certain he or she will be a good fit for your event. Here are a list of questions you should ask your potential speaker before you make a commitment.

Question No. 1: Ask about the speaker’s areas of expertise.

While you likely already have a good sense of the speaker’s areas of expertise and speaking topics from having reviewed their speaker summary, website and video clips, it’s still a good idea to go over these things in a conversation. This way the speaker can elaborate on his interests and you’ll get a good sense of his speaking abilities and knowledge.

Question No. 2: Ask if the speaker has presented to groups, organizations or audiences similar to yours.

If your potential speaker has spoken at similar events or to similar groups or organizations, find out which ones specifically. You may discover that half the people attending your event have heard her speak – and possibly give the exact same presentation – before, in which case you may want to rethink your speaker selection.

Question No. 3: Ask if the speaker customizes her presentation for each audience, or whether she gives the same exact presentation each time.

A speaker who takes the time to tailor her presentation to your group and to address the needs and concerns of your organization or industry may prove to be a more worthwhile choice for your event. If she does customize her presentation, find out how you can help her with her research on your group. Be sure to inquire if there is an extra fee for customization, as this may be the case. And ask if she provides handouts or learning materials that go along with her presentation, as these can add real value as takeaways for your audience.

Question No. 4: Ask what sort of tech or audio-visual requirements the speaker will need.

It’s important to ascertain whether you will need to provide the necessary audio-visual equipment or if that is something the speaker will take care of himself. If it is your responsibility, find out what exactly the speaker needs and be sure to research the added costs this might add to your event budget.

Question No. 5: Ask if the speaker will participate in the rest of the day’s events.

Ask if your potential speaker is willing to mingle with audience members before or after his presentation. If your event involves a social aspect, such as a gala or dinner reception later in the day, find out if your speaker is willing to attend. And be sure to ask whether he will do so as a courtesy as part of his speaking duties, or whether he will charge an extra fee.

Question No. 6: Ask about any upcoming speaking engagements.

Find out if your potential speaker will be presenting at any nearby events in the coming weeks, and ask whether you would be able to attend. This will give you an opportunity to preview the speaker to see her presentation style and how she interacts with the audience.

Question No. 7: Ask the speaker if he belongs to any professional associations or has any certifications.

It’s a good idea to find out if your potential speaker is certified or has won any awards. For example, the National Speakers Association’s designation is “Certified Speaking Professional” or CSP. If a speaker has earned this designation it indicates he has extensive speaking experience and proven client satisfaction.

By asking the questions above, you will not only learn more about a potential speaker, but you’ll gain a sense of whether he or she is someone you can easily work with. And you will likely end the conversation with an intuitive feeling whether he or she is the right fit for your event. Good luck on your speaker search!

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