By Jody Long One of the most important parts of an event is the guest speaker. It can be a stressful task, on top of everything else you're planning for your event. So if you've never dealt with hiring one before, here are some tips so you aren't afraid of making any mistakes with your first hire. Why hire a guest speaker? Hiring a guest speaker or presenter may increase attendance at your next event, and will be sure to add value. Many companies will hire speakers to set a new tone and empower their employees. Some events will include speakers so their audiences are inspired to raise awareness, donate, or drive sales. Or, speakers are sometimes used to educate their audiences on new skills, or industry topics. The planning process: - Get references & testimonials. Be sure you are confident in this speaker. Ask for testimonials, and follow up with references they have provided you. Check online for reviews. Remember that this speaker is representing your company and your event, so it is very important that they give a good impression. - Negotiate the details. Be sure to know the details ahead of time from the speaker. - Plan the logistics. Will the speaker plan their own travel to the event, will their assistant, or will you be required to? - Ask to see their presentation ahead of time. You don't want to be embarrassed when your speaker includes a slide that is offensive to your audience, or is inappropriate. - Ask for a bio. Not only for the purpose of introducing the speaker at the event, but also so you know more about who you're investing in. - Book in advance. The more popular the speaker, the further out they are booked. Be sure to contact them as soon as you know you have an interest in hiring them for an upcoming event. - Match the speaker to the audience. Be sure that you're hiring the right person for the right audience. Put yourself in your attendees' shoes, and ask yourself if you'd be interested in hearing this person speak if you were attending this event. Will your attendees' come away from the event better informed? Also be sure that the speaker's presentation matches up with the goal of the event. As the event coordinator, it is your job to make sure everything is seamless. - Consider the best. Perhaps you're going outside of your industry when it comes to the topic of your meeting. If you're willing to pay top dollar for a great speaker, research who the best person is for a specific topic. Check out this topic and speaker list for some ideas: http://eventplanning.about.com/od/productionentertainment/f/speakertypes.htm - Get it in writing. Once you've decided on a speaker, get every detail in writing from them. Most professional speakers have a contract that they use, and it will typically spell out everything from who's covering what cost, and what they will need from the event planner. Make sure the contract indicates when payment is due. You don't want to have the speaker asking you for their payment on the day of the event. The day of the event: On the event day (or the day the speaker arrives), be sure to meet with them personally. Next, go over the event schedule with them, and make sure everyone is on the same page. Go over last minute changes, and introduce the speaker to any other key members of your team. Last, go over all of the audio visual needs. Be sure you've ordered the right equipment for them. It is also good idea to do a test run of the presentation, so there are no technical errors during the live presentation.