their Web sites prior to the talk. This
helps the speaker know what’s going
on in the industry to better speak to
the needs and issues of my client’s
• Follows up the presentation with outreach to attendees, even if it’s just
posting handouts on a Web site.
How do you find the professional
speakers that you hire?
I usually contact the speaker directly
based on a previous communication or
a colleague’s recommendation. Occasionally, I use a speakers’ bureau when
a particular speaker prefers that method
or has an exclusive arrangement with
a bureau. Sometimes, I see a speaker at
an event that is a showcase for a particular bureau. In that situation, I’ll book
through the sponsoring bureau.
Do you use other methods for selecting
I’m involved with the 18-year-old Association Education Alliance (AEA). We
discuss speakers we’ve hired and maintain a speaker rating listing in the “
members only” section of AEA’s Web site. I’m
also active in NAW, the National Association of Wholesale-Distributors, which
has a similar speaker rating listing. When
I’m not familiar with a speaker, third-party endorsements are important.
How far in advance do you select a
In most cases, I select and hire a speaker
six to 12 months before the event.
What role does the Internet play in your
speaker search and selection process?
Speakers need to have a Web site that
offers more than fluff. I check out the
bio section to determine if a speaker
has the depth of knowledge to serve my
group. I also peruse the “clients” section, especially when the planner’s contact information is included. Frequently,
I will call the planner to discuss the
Program descriptions must accurately
describe what the speaker is going to
deliver. And last, I despise poor-quality
videos. Speakers should invest in quality clips (five minutes is fine) on their
Web sites. I’d rather watch a high-qual-ity studio video than a low-quality live
video with awful sound and jumpy,
Why do you hire professional speakers
instead of industry speakers for little
or no cost?
Professional speakers are, well, professional. Industry speakers have excellent content that is specific to my audi-
“For general sessions
or keynotes, I want a
who brings an added
emotional element to
the platform that is
rarely found in industry
ences’ needs, but they usually aren’t
skilled presenters. For some breakout
sessions, however, industry speakers are
the best choice. For general sessions or
keynotes, I want a professional speaker
who brings an added emotional element
to the platform that is rarely found in
What do you expect from professional
I expect them to be punctual and
deliver the right content infused with
humor for my audience at that particular point in time. I want them to share
their passion and knowledge in a way
that moves the audience. They should
keep attendees interested and engaged
for the duration of their talk. It’s all
about a speaker connecting with the
audience. That’s what makes my members—and me—very happy.
What is your organizational process for
Unlike a number of trade associations
that use a committee process, my cli-
ents (trade associations) trust that our
association management staff will select
the right speaker for their meetings.
We’ve been doing this successfully for
many years. Each event is crafted differently and may require using recommendations, bureau catalogs or an online
search to find the ideal speaker.
How can a speaker create an advantage
over another speaker?
My time is at a premium, so let me
know—in a nutshell—how your presentation will make a difference in the lives
of my meeting attendees. A speaker
who helps me to cut through the clutter
has the upper hand in my book.
What is the best way for a speaker to
initiate contact with you?
Let me know that you understand my
client’s industry and issues. Tell me how
you can deliver compelling business
value through your presentation. By
doing your research before you call me,
you send a loud and clear message that
you have something of value to share.
Your Web site should list your clients
and include a brief description of their
industry or profession and the types of
content you presented.
Joseph Thompson has 30+
years of experience in
executive leadership and
He is the CEO of Thompson
Management Associates, LLC, Annapolis,
Md., a provider of trade association
management and administrative services,
including leadership training, conference
and convention management and volunteer relations. For more information, visit
Ed Rigsbee, CSP, is a
nationally recognized expert
on strategic alliances and
organizational strategy. He
has been an adjunct
professor for the University of California at
Santa Barbara and California Lutheran
University. For more information, visit