4 Negotiating Tips to Book Your Keynote Speaker

Posted by Sheldon Senek

The term “negotiation” can be misleading. Trying to book a keynote speaker for a lower price doesn’t always equal happiness.

Negotiation is a dialogue that occurs so both sides feel that they are getting value, right? We all want value, whether it comes in the form of money, performance, content, deadline agreements, perks–or even having water bottles with bendy straws. Sure, negotiating may not be the most enjoyable process, but five months after signing the agreement, you will be glad you took the time. Here are 4 negotiating tips for meeting planners when booking a speaker.

1. Make a list of items which are important for your event and prioritize it. This list may contain things like: it could be as simple as the speaker to dress business casual or ensuring the keynote speaker’s presentation is focused on team building; perhaps it’s extremely important that the keynote speaker sits with the president/CEO of your company during the conference banquet.

The point is, you have a vision for your conference–and it’s your job to carry it out. If you have 3o0 sales representatives attending your meeting, then it’s a priority to have a seat for each them, right? The same kind of attention should be made when booking a speaker. So make a list ranging from most vital to least.

2. Give and take. You have your priority list in hand–and you have your sights set on a specific sales speaker. Before you begin to negotiate, you have to understand there are now two sides with needs: yours and the speaker’s.

The speaker may feel it’s important to have a hand-held microphone opposed to a lapel mic. Your biggest need might be to keep the expenses down–like travel. Instead of the speaker’s fee, plus the travel expense/hotel expense, you could request a flat fee for expenses (some speakers already offer this).

It’s important to have a dialogue so you can understand the importance of each side’s needs. Just as you have compiled a priority list of needs, the speaker will too. Whether you’re talking marriage, or passing a bill in congress, it’s give and take.

Your side: The conference is in the winter, and you know how bad the weather conditions can get in your surrounding area, so you want to have the speaker arrive the day before (decreases heart attacks, right?).

The speaker’s side: If the speaker is arriving the day before, he might request a rent-a-car to drive around and explore the city so they are not stuck in the hotel. Being at the hotel all day might not seem like a big deal for you (because you’re busy setting the conference up), but to a speaker, the brief escape might mean everything.

Solving this problem was easy–however, that’s not always the case. It takes time, patience, and above all, knowledge.

3. Be realistic, have composure and perspective. Sometimes negotiations will have moments of uncertainty and frustration–but you’re both reaching for the middle ground…a signed contract.  Look, we all want things our own way, but life doesn’t work in this fashion. If it were up to my son, he would play his DS gaming system all day–to his dismay, this isn’t reality. Same is true with booking speakers. A speaker may request a higher fee–and the reality is, your budget cannot be stretched. You may offer everything plus the kitchen sink, but there’s no movement. You may be faced with either upping your budget, or selecting another speaker in your comfort range. It happens. On the flip side, the speaker may be totally flexible and understanding. The point is, be realistic (in your offer and various requests) that will go a long way in negotiating.

Example of perspective. You want to book a celebrity, however, she will only do the speech, then leave. That won’t do, right? You want the star to stick around and shake hands. To you, if she doesn’t do this, the deal is off. It even angers you that she won’t accept your request. This is where composure should kick in. Pause. Then figure out if the issue can be solved.

Perhaps this all could have been avoided if you knew your star would shake hands if they  have a 10 minute break with milk and cookies (I only mention milk and cookies because I’m hungry for them at moment). Take time to view the event from another perspective–understand that the other side may have needs. Otherwise, each side will misinterpret one another–causing emotions to emerge–then the deal is truly lost (and no one wants this to happen).

4. Get representation from experts. There are two ways to go about getting speakers. You might feel comfortable negotiating the deal directly with the speakers. If you can handle the nuances, then go forth and negotiate brave ones (and use the first 3 tips)! But Consider this: what’s one thing that celebrities and sports stars have in common? An agent. This is someone who will represent them, and have a total sensibility about the business and their client in order to facilitate the best deal.

The same holds true for meeting and event planners. Your focus should be the overall event. Will you be doing the cooking, serving, entertainment, set-up and tear down, tech person, room service, etc? So why would you do the same thing with the speaker? Seek out a speakers bureau service that you trust–one that will represent your side and help meet your goals (they should solve the 3 points above). Make sure they are telling you about the speakers’ various expenses up front (hotel, travel, food).

A speakers bureau will have already developed relationships with speakers (whether they are business speakers, celebrities, comedians), and because of this, they will have the knowledge of what’s important to each speaker. This way, you’ll know from the beginning that speaker X prefers to travel first class, and always likes to get to the conference a day early. Already, you’re given information that’s useful for your estimated speaker budget (first class ticket, plus extra night at the hotel). The more knowledge you have, the more educated your decision is, the easier your negotiation is, right?

The important thing is to remove your negative emotion and worries, and focus on getting the speaker who will excite and deliver for your conference.

Need expert negotiation advise? Here’s some keynote speakers for your next conference.

Herb Cohen, Negotiation Expert

Herb Cohen
Authority on Negotiation. Herb Cohen has been a practicing negotiator for the past four decades, intimately enmeshed in some of the world’s headline dramas – from hostile takeovers to hostage negotiations.

Roger Dawson, Business Negotiator

Roger Dawson
America’s Premier Business Negotiator. Roger Dawson produces instant results. Nothing affects the bottom line of your company more than the ability of your sales force to negotiate a better deal. Roger’s presentations are high energy, fun-filled and your members will leave with new skills that will improve their bottom line.

Hal Becker, Sales and Negotiation

Hal Becker
Best-Selling Author, Sales & Customer Service Expert. Hal Becker is a nationally known speaker on Sales and Customer Service, who makes over 120 presentations a year to companies and associations. Hal was Xerox’s #1 salesperson among a national sales force of 11,000, former CEO and founder of Direct Opinions, one of America’s first customer service telemarketing firms that conducts more than than 2,000,000 calls per year, a cancer survivor, and now the author of two national best sellers titled Can I Have 5 Minutes of Your Time? and Lip Service!

Posted by Sheldon Senek
Sheldon Senek is the President of Eagles Talent Speakers Bureau and writes about expert keynote speakers and Motivational Speakers, as well as tips for corporate meeting planners.

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