All industries change as the world around them changes. The speaking industry is no different. The topics meeting planners requested 5 years ago or 10 years ago have changed. With a booming economy, companies are now more interested in recruiting and retaining employees than they were 5 years ago.

Current speaker topics companies are looking for

Lately I’ve been getting requests from meeting planners for topics related to the workplace, such as generational issues, managing a new generation, and recruitment and retention. With a tight job market they are suddenly interested in motivating employees and attracting the best talent.

As a business speaker, can you help companies recruit and retain the best employees? Have you gone through the same issues as a business owner and have tips that can help them find new talent? Have you been on the hiring end and have tips from human resources that will help them? 

Can you motivate employees?

As a motivational speaker, are you able to help companies motivate their employees? Recent studies show that money and benefits are actually not at the top of things that excite new employees. Peer motivation and recognition and encouragement are at the top. Employees will be spending most of their day at the office, so a fun environment is key to many people. A dull, stressful, high-paying job that sucks the life out of you will burn employees out quickly. Can you help them find ways to keep their employees happy and motivated?

Are you an expert in helping companies create a dynamic company culture? Companies that don’t have a defined culture and mission statement tend to have disorganized chaos. Once a company has a defined culture they can then hire people that fit into the culture. But they first need to know what it is. Are you that speaker who can help them define their culture? This is valuable to a company that wants to retain the best talent.

Are you a leader?

Many speakers speak on the topic of leadership. Have you actually been a leader yourself? Do you have valuable and unique information you can give to companies on how to groom talent for leadership positions? Have you been on the other side as an employee in a company who can give inside information on what employees want out of management and how to nurture their talent for leadership positions?

Or maybe you’re an expert on the topic of generational issues in the workplace. Can you help companies figure out how to deal with a workforce of different generations? Can you help them navigate through issues like different communication styles, technical issues, and different styles of collaborating?

As a speaker you’re constantly having to adjust to changes in the speaking industry. If you can use your background to help companies through the changes they’re facing, you open up more possibilities as a speaker. It gives you more chances at having current speaker topics companies are looking for right now.







I found out that you can get more speaking jobs by helping other speakers. Last week I got a call from a meeting planner regarding a keynote for their next conference. I spoke on the topics they were looking for and was available for the date of the event. She set up a time for me to have a 3-way call with the president of the company and I had my list of questions to ask.

It quickly became clear that he was looking for something completely different, and I was met with a lot of resistance on the other end. At that point I could have tried to push it in my direction but I got the impression if I had gotten the job they wouldn’t have been happy.

So after hanging up I called my competition. I knew that he was more what they were looking for and he was local. I’m not sure if he’s excepted the job or not but I felt much better knowing that the client will get what they want and get a great speaker and I won’t be miserable trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.

Sometimes your competition is a better fit

The point of the story is that sometimes it’s better to pass on a job than try to make it fit. Sometimes your competition is a better fit.

I had a friend who wanted to get on a TV writing staff, so she came up with a long term strategy that was kind of a gamble. She decided to spend a whole year helping other people in the industry get work. Not ignoring her own work, but always keeping an eye out for writing jobs that she could pass on to other writers.

For months, she networked like crazy and recommended good writers that she knew whenever a job would come up that they were right for. Many times the writers were direct competition. Sometimes they were better suited for that particular job than she was.

After several months she was starting to think maybe the strategy wasn’t going to work. She got a lot of grateful writers work, but she still wasn’t on a TV writing staff. And then one day she got a call that one of the writers she had helped had been promoted to showrunner of a new TV series. And that writer never forgot how she had helped her. She got the job as staff writer on a show that lasted a couple of years. Not only did she make a lot of money, but that led to other staff writing jobs.

Help the meeting planner

The bottom line is that there is a lot of work out there. If you’re the very best person for the job, you’ll get it. And if you don’t get it, you might as well be the one to help the meeting planner find the best person. That will make the meeting planner happy, so the next time they will remember you helped them out with a really good speaker. And the next job may be one you’re perfect for.

It will also make the speaker happy. Hopefully they will steer some business your way when the time is right. Sometimes they may be busy on the date of the event, or they could refer you the next year.

Speaker commission

You could do it just for the karma or you could do a reciprocal commission of 10 or 20%. But make sure you’re working with professional, ethical speakers who will do a good job for the meeting planner. Otherwise it’ll backfire on you. Get more speaking jobs by helping other speakers get speaking jobs.

This is why it’s a good idea to network with professional speakers who can hit it out of the park and pay it forward for you if possible. Even if it’s your competition.

Every performer knows the show must go on, no matter what. I learned very early on as an actor how to perform through pain. How to push the pain to the back of my mind to give the audience what they came to see. I was on my way to do a TV show in New York when I got the news that my dog died. I showed up to the studio with red, puffy eyes and struggled to sit in the makeup chair without crying. But when they called “action” I snapped into character with a smile on my face.

How to perform through pain

Last year I was in the hospital and had to fly out to do a speaking job that same day. I cut the hospital bracelet off on my way to the airport and put myself into a Zen mode. I was in no shape to be flying, but had no choice. It turned out to be one of the best speeches I had given and you would never guess from the video. The client had no idea what I was going through.

Last week I was scheduled to do a motivational speech and found out my mother died the day before I had to leave.  I had to put on a happy face and power through motivating the crowd, when I could barely motivate myself.

The show must go on!

Performers have to go through this all the time. If you work enough, you’ll probably eventually go through some kind of painful experience where you simply have to go on with the performance.

I know of a belly dancer who also juggled knives in her act. She said once she dropped the knife and it went straight into her foot, but she just pulled it out and kept on dancing. As soon as she got off stage she let out a scream. But while on stage she had to keep going.

Speaker who performed through pain

Here are some performers who prove the show must go on and how they do it:

“It was the day after the love of my life died of a brain tumor. The client had flown in his sales team from all across the U.S. And my job, was to educate and entertain them from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

There are two things that got me through this day and carry me through hardship to give it my best.

Focus on the audience — not me

Although the client may be empathetic, caring, even compassionate, they don’t really care what my problems are. They care about how they are going to get the training and entertainment for their team, keep the program on track, and get a return on the investment. To get through the day, I focused totally on the audience and giving them the best program I could give them. Make them laugh, make them cry, help them learn, answer their questions. No thinking about myself. Solely serving them.

Remind myself that I’m the best they are going to get today — so I better be good

The client has contracted with me. It’s too late to get them a substitute. It’s unfair (unethical) for me to not give my very best. The information is important for this audience. Do the job.

That was the toughest day I’ve worked as a speaker. The client never knew what I was going through and has since had me back to work with his team repeatedly.”

Laurie Richards is an accomplished speaker, strategist, and organizational consultant who works with leaders, executives, entrepreneurs, and other professionals to improve communication at every level. Known for her practical, interactive, and entertaining approach. She helps clients strategically plan outcome-based presentations. Put power into a PowerPoint. Prepare for media interviews, manage crises (before, during, and after), grow morale, build stronger teams, and improve everyday communications to directly affect the bottom line (including new business pitches, state-of-the-organization addresses, sales presentations, and meetings. Many of Richards’ programs include personality profiling. She uses Myers-Briggs, DISC, Social Styles, and Fascination Advantage.  This helps clients work better as teams, improve efficiencies, select best candidates, and coach employees.

Laurie Richards holds degrees in communication and business management, and a variety of certifications in micro-expressions and psychological profiling. She is currently working toward her Ph.D. in industrial and organizational psychology.For more information, visit:

Long running play

“I am an actress is a very long running play in NY called Perfect Crime; I’ve gone onstage 8 times/week since April of 1987 and have only missed 4 performances in 31 years for my siblings’ weddings.

So I have literally performed through every life experience – break ups, death and illness of loved ones, sickness, the 9/11 attack, etc. My mother died on a Saturday between a matinee and an evening performance and I did the evening show. I am not crazy (well, maybe a little) but it was strangely comforting to do the show that night.

I have given this a lot of thought and I think performing has been enormously helpful to me in terms of dealing with hardship. It’s an appropriate emotional outlet. It’s distracting in times of trouble. Sometimes when I am onstage fully engaged, a small part of my brain is actually also problem solving so I end up having a solution to whatever is bothering me after the show. So performing allows me to be creative in multiple ways.”

Catherine Russell
General Manager
The Theater Center
1627 Broadway @ 50th St
212 921 7862 (theater)

Ballroom dancer

“I’m a competitive ballroom dancer and blogger. I’ve been training in ballroom dance since 2012, started competing in 2014, and most recently, have won a World Champion title in the style American Smooth. I blog as The Girl with the Tree Tattoo. I share the good, the bad, and the awkward of my journey while shedding light on the rarely addressed mental and emotional aspects of being a ballroom dancer.

Like so many of my fellow dancers, I’ve danced through physical injuries and illnesses. I’ve danced through anxiety and/or panic attacks. I danced through the end of my marriage.

When your passion for dance is so strong that it becomes something you must do, instead of just like to do, there is very little that will keep you from it. My teacher and dance partner even tried to dance with a severely broken wrist! No matter the style, dance requires a high level of discipline and commitment. I have to push through mental and physical hurdles every day just to train and practice. This trains me to push through them at performance time.

Dance is such a physically, emotionally and mentally taxing sport. You have to have a good amount of grit to survive and thrive in it, because otherwise it will chew you up and spit you out.

Preparation is key

As far as techniques for getting through specific hardships, preparation is key. Taking good care of my body throughout training reduces the risk of injury, and if I am injured, it reduces the severity. Preparation is key for my mental state as well. My warmup process at competitions includes a lot of mindset work to help me focus and be present in the moment. My best dance performance requires me to be fully present in the moment. Dance actually provides an escape. Everything else fades away as I move with my partner to the music. And if there is something that refuses to fade, I use it. I tap into the emotions I’m feeling and redirect them into my dancing.”

Katie Flashner, a.k.a. The Girl with the Tree Tattoo, is a ballroom dancer and blogger. Her mission is to inspire and motivate her fellow ballroom dancers to become the performers they are born to be instead of the ones that others want them to be.

World Champion ballroom dancer

Katie has been studying ballroom dance since 2012 and has successfully competed as an amateur ballroom dancer since 2014. Most recently she won the World Champion title in American Smooth. Since starting her blog in 2015, Katie has welcomed over 1,600 followers who value her openness and willingness to share the good, the bad, and the awkward of her journey while shedding light on the rarely addressed mental and emotional aspects of being a ballroom dancer.

In addition to writing on her blog, Katie regularly contributes articles to FloDance and Sheer Dance magazine. She has also been featured on DanceBeat, Dancesport Place, Dance Comp Review, and Dance Advantage. Her best-selling digital book series, Dance Diaries, received over 4 stars in Amazon reviews.

Katie lives in Orange County, California with her two dogs and has just released her latest work, The Solo Practice Guide for Ballroom Dancing.

Professional musician and performer

“My name is Alissa Musto and I am a professional musician and performer based in Boston, MA.

Growing up in a family of professional musicians, the concept of the “show must go on” was instilled in me from a young age. There are certainly days where I feel absolutely terrible, either emotionally or physically, and don’t want to go on stage. I remind myself though that this may be somebody’s first and only impression of me. Whatever I’m going through is temporary and probably will be resolved in a week. The consequences of a bad performance, however, live on a lot longer.

Crunch moments

I like to refer to these instances as “crunch moments”; I’m totally overwhelmed, I’m tired, I’m upset, I’m stressed, I’m probably running behind and then on top of all that, something else unexpected happens. If I took the time to really think about and process everything going on in that moment, I’d probably break down. Instead, I just acknowledge that I’ve hit “crunch time” and that I indisputably have to move forward and figure everything else out later. At that point, there is no room for procrastination or self-doubt. I buy my favorite $7 Starbucks coffee drink and remind myself that “dealing with it” is what distinguishes me as a professional from millions of other aspiring performers.

Alissa Musto

What are your techniques for performing through pain?

According to The Chronicle of Philanthropy and Giving USA, philanthropy in America for 2017 hit a record high and continues to break records. “Powered by a booming stock market and a strong economy, charitable giving by American individuals, bequests, foundations and corporations to U.S. charities surged to an estimated $410.02 billion in 2017, according to Giving USA 2018: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2017″ 

Philanthropy in America

Philanthropy will always go on, but during times of economic prosperity, giving throughout history has increased. Aggie Sweeney, chair of the Giving USA Foundation, said “As people have more resources available, they are choosing to use them to make a difference.”  When people have more, they give more. Giving to the arts has increased in 2017 by 8.7 percent to over $19 billion dollars. Giving to education in 2017 is almost $59 billion dollars. This spells great news for speakers and artists who want to use their creativity for the greater good.

Researchers from the Indiana University Lilly Family of Philanthropy found that giving rose by at least 5% in three of the four categories they polled — corporations (8%), foundations (6%), and individuals (5%). Among all groups, foundations had the largest increase in donations, increasing by 15.5%.

Tax benefits of philanthropy

Even though charitable giving should be altruistic, there are many tax benefits to it as well. In 1917 tax code changes allowed tax payers to deduct up to 15% of their taxable income when they donated to charitable causes, such as charities for the poor, scientific study, and arts and education.

Changes in the tax code allowed corporations to deduct charitable contributions up to 5 percent of taxable income. Now most major corporations have a corporate foundation, and charitable obligations to society have become an expected part of doing business.

Throughout history, people have used philanthropy to gain prestige, power and recognition. In David Callahan’s book “The Givers: Wealth, Power and Philanthropy in a New Gilded Age”, he shines a light on the new generation of top mega philanthropists and how they’re using their philanthropy for power and influence. Whatever reason they’re doing it, it still benefits speakers and artists. Those entrepreneurial artists who know how to partner with philanthropists will not only help advance their own careers quickly, but will also become a part of a growing social movement to better their own communities.

The Gilded Age

Andrew Carnegie, one of the most high profile philanthropists of the Gilded Age, said “it is more difficult to give money away intelligently than to earn it in the first place.” He put his own money where his mouth was and gave away 90 percent of his fortune in his lifetime. He also encouraged other wealthy Americans to follow him in giving their money away to improve society.

Like Carnegie, today’s philanthropists know that it isn’t just about writing a check. It’s about using that money wisely to produce the best possible outcomes for society. This is why speakers and artists need to learn the business side, as well as the creative side.

Grants for speakers and artists

An important piece of the patronage partnership is grants. Philanthropists want to improve the human condition and make a positive change to society through their contributions. They are always looking for new and unique ways to improve their communities. Socrates said that the act of giving away his thoughts in his speech was his philanthropy, and Plato left his farm to a nephew with instructions to use the profits from the harvest to help the students and the teachers at the school he started.

Speakers and artists who can align themselves with a worthy cause and partner with philanthropic entities can literally create their own “jobs” and use their creative voice and passion to make the world a better place.





All writers have run into writer’s block at one time or another. According to Wikipedia, writer’s block is “a condition, primarily associated with writing, in which an author loses the ability to produce new work, or experiences a creative slowdown. The condition ranges in difficulty from coming up with original ideas to being unable to produce a work for years.”

The same thing can happen to speakers where you get speaker’s block. You go through a dry spell and don’t have work booked for a long time. You are still doing the same canned speech you have been giving for years. Or you simply are not expanding your knowledge or challenging yourself as a speaker.

Speaker’s block

If you get to that point where you feel you have speaker’s block, here are some tips to get out of it:


Yes just get out and speak. It sounds simple and it is. If you aren’t booked to speak anywhere, call your local library, church, or Chamber of Commerce and ask if you could come in and give a speech. Even if you’re used to being a paid, working speaker, if you aren’t working, make it happen. The best speakers I know will simply speak anywhere, anytime. Speaking, like acting, isn’t a skill you can just read about in a book and get better at. You have to actually do it.

Try something new

I remember when I was in Toastmasters we would have to write and deliver a new speech every month or two. I loved the idea of picking a random topic and doing a speech on it, just to see if I could. This is a good thing to do when you’re speaking at your local library or church. When you’re speaking for free you can experiment. Pick a topic that interests you and not just one that you need to make money with. But play to the top of your game and give it your all, even if you’re speaking for free.

Do something else creative

Sometimes if you step away from speaking and try something else creative, you stretch your creative muscles and will come back to speaking even stronger. Try writing a short story or poetry, take an improv class, go dancing, sing at a Karaoke, take up photography, make a scrapbook, etc.

Get an outside point of view

If you’re stuck, sometimes having an outsider look at things will give you a fresh way to look at your career. Have someone look through your website, speaker videos, etc. There is probably something you’re missing, and you can’t see it because you’re too close to it. Get a fresh point of view and get re-energized.

Remind yourself why you’re a speaker

If you find that things are getting boring and you’re just going through the motions, remind yourself why you became a speaker in the first place. Think about your audience and why you want to get your message across to them. This will help put the passion back in your speaking and get you excited about getting back on stage.

The next time you find yourself with speaker’s block, try one or all of the above!




You walk off stage to thunderous applause and pat yourself on the back. You nailed it. The audience was with you and they loved you. But did they really? How do you know if the audience liked your speech?

One of the first speeches I gave felt like this. Until I got my feedback. “She didn’t know who we were or what we do”. Yikes! I had no idea they felt this way. But the truth is, they were right. I had spent so much time perfecting the craft of my speech but I didn’t spend any time getting to know who the audience was or whether they would like or even need the material. I never made that mistake again.

But sometimes it’s hard to tell from their reactions or their applause how an audience really feels. So how do you find out?

Ask the meeting planner

Meeting planners will usually get feedback about a speaker so they know what kinds of things the audience likes or doesn’t like. Some of the feedback is brought up in the wrap-up meetings after an event. If you’re brave, you could call or email them to find out what kind of feedback they got. Then if it’s positive, great! If it’s negative, you need to know so you can improve.

Look on Twitter

It was only when I started checking the event hashtags that I discovered some great feedback from an event that I thought the audience hated. They didn’t really participate in the interactive portion and I had a hard time getting people to even raise their hands for questions. But it turns out they were a shy group, which explains why most people were sitting in the back of the room and didn’t want to be called on. But they put all kinds of praise on Twitter. I had no idea.

Ask the audience

This is also tricky, but I tried it after the last speech I gave. I asked people in the audience one on one if there was any information in the speech that they could use in their own organizations. I not only got an idea of the things they could and couldn’t implement, but they gave me ideas for other content to look into. If you’re doing a breakout or your own events you can give people a feedback form to fill out.

If you really take the time to know and understand your audience’s needs you should be getting good feedback from them. Audience feedback isn’t a one time thing, but should be done after every speech. The more you know, the more you will improve as a speaker.

As a professional speaker and someone who works to get paid work for speakers, I was happy to see the latest report from Meetings Outlook for the speaking industry forecast for 2018. The survey showed a majority of experts in the meeting and event industry said they predict 2018 will be a good one for growth.

One reason speakers have been struggling with free and low fee gigs is because supply has been greater than demand. But for the first time in years, demand is starting to curve slightly in favor of supply.

Over half predict favorable business conditions and slightly higher budgets in the new year. Live attendance is expected to grow approximately 1.6%. Still not enough to have full employment for speakers, but definitely a trend in the right direction. More demand than supply will also mean higher fees for speakers who are working.

According to IBTM World, the industry’s leading showcase of meetings, incentives, conferences and events, “there is significant optimism among meeting and event planners”. This is based on their Trends Watch Report, which was compiled using 25 key sources of industry data.

It seems diversity and inclusion will be on the minds of meeting planners in 2018 according to IMEX. “We at IMEX have experienced the rising importance of diversity in the industry, particularly around women in the workplace and career advancement.” The idea of having more women and minority speakers had been debated for years. Maybe it’s finally trending in that direction.

According to the 2018 SITE Index more than half of planners think their incentive travel budgets will increase. But that doesn’t mean they won’t still be watching their budget. Most will still remain frugal about unnecessary spending, especially as the costs of everything will be going up.

This means as a speaker you would be wise to continue giving meeting planners the best return possible on their investment. Even though demand is trending upward, they will still be looking for the best value for their audience.




Influence is the new currency. Micro influencers are the new rock stars. And sponsorship and micro influencers go hand in hand. They have enormous currency to a sponsor looking to get in front of a target audience. Celebrities with a large following are great for big corporations. Ask Kim Kardashian who makes $10,000 for sending out a single tweet.

Small business sponsorship

But Speaker Sponsor is more focused on small business sponsors and large corporations doing local and regional sponsorship. In that case, Kim Kardashian’s millions of followers is too much. And it’s also too expensive for local or regional small business sponsorship, and doesn’t necessarily guarantee a better return on investment. Just being famous or semi famous isn’t enough for a small business.

I’ve been preaching this for a while now, but a recent roundtable event put on by Eventopedia and Bold with a group of event professionals may prove what I’ve been saying to be true. Even Ad Age is talking about how the micro influencer market is booming. Recent research shows that micro influencers have about as much credibility as family and friends do.

Micro influencers have more engagement

Recent Instagram research found that micro influencers have more engagement, which shows that it’s more about quality vs. quantity. Micro influencers had several times more engagement with followers than celebrities did. This makes sense since you are reaching a much more targeted audience.

One thing small businesses are looking for, even over the big corporations, is sales. And sales are more likely to happen when customers are more engaged. People buy from people they like and trust. The more positive engagement there is, the more sales a small business will get. Small businesses usually don’t have money to waste on people who aren’t interested in their products. Big corporations can spend millions on TV ads that reach a lot of people who aren’t interested in buying from them. Small businesses can’t do that. They need to be more targeted and efficient.

This is all great news for you as a speaker. When you are hired to do a speaking job, you are instantly a micro influencer. You have a targeted audience for a small business, who wants to get in front of them. You have at least an hour of face to face time with that audience who is looking at you as an expert. If you do your job right and give them great information, you are also gaining their trust. And if you show them your sparkling personality, which you should be doing as a speaker anyway, you are also getting them to like you. This is all extremely valuable for a small business.

If you are asked to speak for free, which is about half of all of the speaking jobs out there, you have an opportunity to use that time to help a small business get in front of their target audience at the same time you get paid. It’s a win-win for everyone!

As a speaker, the time is right for you to take advantage of this new trend and start making really good money as a sponsored speaker by being a micro influencer. What are you waiting for?


As a speaker bureau, one of the hardest kinds of speakers to book is a generalist. Being exactly like every other speaker and speaking on exactly the same topics means you blend into the woodwork. When a meeting planner asks what’s different about them, it’s usually met with a silence that means “not interested”.

I’m not saying generalist speakers don’t work. They certainly do. But there is a way to guarantee you’ll get more work.

In my course, “Create Your Own Job“, I talk about the 3 ways you can guarantee you’ll get more work than you can handle in any economy. One of those ways is by doing something no one else knows how to do.

I remember when I was working in casting we were looking for a good actor who could also play the piano. Good actors are a dime a dozen. And we could also find plenty of good piano players. But finding both in one person was extremely difficult. We put out a call to everyone we could think of and were willing to see absolutely any actor from anywhere who could possibly fit the part.

There are a lot of inspirational speakers who are in the category of having a story that no one else has. Nick Vujicic is one of those speakers. According to Wikipedia he was “born with tetra-ameila syndrome, a rare disorder characterized by the absence of arms and legs. He is one of the seven known surviving individuals planet-wide who live with the syndrome.”

As a speaker you can set yourself apart and be booked constantly by doing something no one else knows how to do or by having a topic no one else has that you know better than anyone else.

The best example of an in demand speaker who does this is Brene Brown. This info on her website tells it all: “Brene’s reputation as a speaker is built on her ability to explore difficult topics”. Brene says” I’ve spent the past 16 years studying courage, vulnerability, empathy and shame”. She knows the value of speaking on a topic no one else speaks on and knowing it better than anyone else.

Another way to do this is through primary and secondary research. Secondary research is by studying what experts have written about a topic and drawing your own conclusions about it. Primary research is by conducting your own experiments and publishing information you can’t find anywhere else. This is the best way to guarantee you will be the only speaker who has that topic. You truly would have no competition at all by doing it yourself.  

Many organizations have to deal with changing regulations on a constant basis. There is always a need for speakers who are on top of what’s going on in their industry as far as regulations are concerned. If you’re a good speaker and can address new and current regulations, you will probably get a lot of work in that industry, especially in the medical and financial industries where regulations are changing constantly.

If you think all of this sounds like a lot of work… it is! But the speaking industry isn’t easy, and the competition is enormous. If you really want to work as a paid speaker you have to be willing to work harder than the next person who wants that job.



Last week I talked to a meeting planner who had a keynote speaker coming from Florida who wasn’t able to get to their event due to hurricane Irma. When I asked what she did, she said she keeps a list of speakers she knows she can count on in a pinch, and goes through the ones local to the event in case of an emergency.

I’ve been on the other side of that as a speaker who was booked because of another speaker having to cancel. When you have to pull together a speech literally at the last minute, it helps to be an expert in that topic who knows the subject backwards and forwards. Here are some examples of speakers who have been in that situation and meeting planners who have saved the day when a speaker cancels:

“As an international planner who has been in the events profession for over a decade, I have experienced a handful of times that a speaker has canceled their set less than two weeks prior to a conference. Only once have I had someone cancel onsite, and that was due to food poisoning. Surprisingly, he pulled it together and showed up after he cancelled.

In the times that a speaker has canceled, we have a few systems in place. First, we work with the speaker to see if there is a way for us to pre-record some of the content for our group or find out if there is a way to do a live stream before we announce any changes. Most of the time, either of those solutions works. Sometimes they have a protege they can send in their place, which most of they tend to deliver messages with more enthusiasm.

We also work with the speaker who canceled to implement post conference content that can be pushed to the attendees, which is a win-win for both their brand and for the attendees to still feel they received information from an industry leader.  In addition to those strategies, we always contact several speakers beforehand on their schedules and inform them that we may need them for a conference. Most of these speakers are of the lower tiered in their category, so their schedules are a bit easier to manipulate.”

Robin Oloyede
Events and Communications Director for Texas State Optical
Global Accounts Manager for Helms Briscoe

“As a frequent speaker, I find that too many meeting planners try to get their speakers on the cheap which is what leads to cancellations.  Yes speakers have important information to share, but frankly, we are not doing it for our joy and personal satisfaction alone, but we need compensation to keep doing what we are doing.

I have found today that too many speaking engagements are offered as ‘networking opportunities’ with very little financial incentive to make those engagements worthwhile.  Personally, I don’t accept such engagements, because I don’t want to be forced to cancel at the last minute, but I think the idea that “you get what you pay for” is important for those who need professional speakers to round out events.  Being too cheap simply sets them up for last minute cancellations.”

Pam Danziger
Speaker, Author, Market Researcher
Unity Marketing

“I’ve been an meeting planner for 2 decades and speaker’s canceling at the last minute is rare. Although, I worked a conference for another planner this week and 5 speakers canceled in two days which was really unusual. I hope it’s not a trend. I teach a class at AZ State Univ. and funny enough last night the topic was “meeting planners working with speakers” and we talked about this exact topic!

What do you do when a speaker cancels happens? Three things:

  1. The contract w/speaker is critical as there must be a cancellation clause that details out what the liabilities are when the speaker does cancel (6 months out, 3 months out, etc.). The next part is how the deposit will be handled such as return of % of deposit to the association or company based on timing.

In the contract you could require if the speaker does cancel they are responsible to providing a replacement based on the terms of the contract, meaning no additional cost to the host company.

  1. As the planner or educational committee you need to have a list of back-up speakers who could be called on to present the topic. The resources could be just knowing who are the experts in the field they can call on, other planners who have a list of recommended speakers, speaker bureaus
  2. Cancel the session if it happens at the last minute, like the day before, and the planner doesn’t have a local expert – this is the worst option as attendees are always disappointed that the topic they want to hear is not available. This happened yesterday when a speaker didn’t show and the room was packed. Truly a bad reflection on the speaker.


Marla Harr

Business Professional Development Consultant

Business Etiquette International

Act Well Do Well

“I was speaking at a conference in Boston 2 years ago in February, the winter of historic snowfall in the area. A major storm hit the day before the conference so several speakers could not make it into town because the airport had cancelled so many flights. I am based locally and ended up speaking 3 times on different topics the day of the conference.A lot of people who were already there ended up having to step in as well. It actually worked out amazingly well, the attendees were appreciative that the event went on and many seasoned speakers like myself were able to join panels on related topics or step in and give an impromptu talk based on their experience and background.

The survey after the conference rated it very successful and popular,sometimes you just have to roll with the punches as needed. I have spoken at other events over the years when the keynote had a last minute family emergency or conflict and the person who replaced them gave a terrific talk. Sometimes it works out even better than expected, the replacement speaker does not have time to get nervous so speaks off the cuff and the audience has lower expectations and is blown away by the authenticity of a less prepared speech.

Paige Arnof-Fenn
Founder & CEO
Mavens & Moguls

“Every meeting planner has that stomach-dropping moment when they have a room full of people waiting for a speaker that doesn’t show. The mark of a good planner is the ability to think on their feet – and this is definitely a test! Act quickly and calmly – if you have other sessions happening simultaneously, make a short announcement informing attendees of their other choices, and ensure them that you will have any materials (slide deck, handouts) they missed out on circulated post-meeting.

If you’re in a situation where the speaker is the main event, here’s where knowing your audience is key. Every conference has a few stakeholders in the room who may have a presentation or some seasoned advice up their sleeve – this is the time to pull together an onstage interview or fireside chat with those folks who you know will jump at the chance for the mic.

None of these options available to you? Slot in some extra time for networking! Many conference attendees are bored by constant programming and wish they had more time to connect with their peers – turn this into an opportunity.

Whatever you do, make sure you follow up with attendees who may have been disappointed by the change in schedule. Reach out to your speaker to see if they’ll record a video message or send a note to your attendees who missed out on their knowledge.”

Moey Fox

Senior Manager at Scott Circle, a full service communications, conference, and event management firm based in Washington, D.C.

“One time I was attending a 3-day leadership conference — as a participant — when it was learned that one of the speakers scheduled for the next morning would be unable to make it. So, when asked if I could possibly jump in to fill this void, I had to put together an entire 3-hour workshop – including powerpoint slides and handouts – overnight, on the fly! Glad to be able to report that it went great.

I’ve jumped in to speak, sit in on panels, and deliver workshops a few other times, as well, with less than a day’s notice.

The key to me, first of all, is to be a subject matter expert in your field, and to have a strong brand, so that others feel confident reaching out to you to step in with little notice. And to know your content so well that you can deliver it with minimal preparation.

Secondly, and of equal importance, is, in your preparation, to be clear on who your AUDIENCE is…and what your PURPOSE is. One-size-fits-all, generic presentations are, usually, not very effective. So I always try to find out as much as I can, as quickly as I can, about the Who, What, When, Where, and Why…so I can best determine the How.”

Todd Cherches

CEO & Co-Founder

BigBlueGumball LLC


“I host an annual event for small and growing business owners called, The BOLD Move Event.  We’ve been doing these two-day events since 2012, and have had only one speaker cancel.  She literally cancelled the day before the event because she said, “She wasn’t feeling the crowd; I don’t think there will be enough people for my workshop.”  Well as the event host, I had become so full of last minute registrants, changes, sponsor requests, that I literally said, “Fine.  We will do something else.”  I consult with businesses and do some speaking, so I created (on the fly) a workshop about when we have to make adjustments to plans and activities in business.  It was a big hit.

A last minute speaker cancellation can cripple an event and do harm to the hosting organization’s reputation, especially if the event is built around that speaker.  If the host is knowledgeable,  flexible and quick on his or her feet, a last-minute cancellation can create a positive lesson for conference participants.

Michelle Aikens

Sepia Prime Woman