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.




As a speaker, it’s helpful to know what the person hiring you to speak is most concerned about. You never know. You may have skills that can help them in problem solving, and that will go a long way when it comes to hiring and rehiring you. Always help make their job a little easier.

In a recent study conducted by Development Counsellors International, who polled over 200 North American meeting planners, over half of them are struggling with limited budgets and felt they were being overworked on top of it.

An article in Meetings and Conventions Magazine listed 25 ways meeting planners could cut their budgets. Two things on the list are of particular concern to speakers. The first one said to look within the organization for talent, offering them a free ticket to the conference in exchange.

This is something I’ve been hearing a lot lately from meeting planners, so it backs up what the article says. This is why it’s so important to have a portfolio of your own sponsors, so you can offer that to a meeting planner as an option when they don’t have the money in the budget. It’s possible they may find a good speaker from within to do it for free, but my guess is they would prefer to have a professional speaker with outside knowledge if they could.

The other thing on the list was to get more from your speakers by getting them to add a breakout session to their keynote fee. Another way speakers can add value is by helping to promote the event. This is something you should do anyway if you are working with a sponsor.

Here are other concerns from meeting planners:

“As an event and meeting planner with more than 25 years of professional experience, these are a few things that keep me up at night.

1) A speaker who manages to engage the attendees, but whose message provides no real teachable lessons — or the flip side — a speaker who  provides a plethora of good information, but goes too deep in the weeds and bores the attendees is a major consideration.

2) Attendees who pay a significant amount to attend a meeting or conference, but feel as though they didn’t get the value out of their investment is always a concern.

3) Equipment and tech failures with microphones, audio, etc., can keep one up at night. While you can test the equipment and conduct sound checks,it’s those phantom times when the PowerPoint and audio has a mind of its own and does not work properly.

4) Will the the meeting rooms be too cold or too hot? Will attendees be able to find their sessions? Will the meeting and seminars run on time? Will the speakers all show? There has been an occasion where there is a no-show.”

Greg Jenkins

PartnerBravo Productions


“My biggest concern: how to a leverage the event and how do I create an experience to get people excited to show up live.

 As far as an event, it’s never just the event. I have to consider if I live stream the live event, turn it into a podcast, transcribe it for blog post, turn into an article, pitch to media, create social media posts, and leverage every single second to justify the event cost. Some people just won’t attend a live event. I have many that will watch online so I have to make certain I’m on the platform and medium they desire and allow them to do so on their own time.

Experience. I definitely am more focused on creating unique events. How to I elevate the live event where people won’t want to miss it. Is it the mix of people in the room? Is it a special venue? Do attendees get something special? Is it going above and beyond to make people wowed?

Interesting example:

In 2011, I live streamed a four hour event via a rigged Go-To-Webinar trick. We had 100 in the audience, and we had 80 people show up from all over the country the entire time. After the event, I produced the video on our YouTube channel (with permission of all speakers). This one speaker, really used the video. She’s had almost 55k views on the video in five years. She still gets people that call her because of this event.

Aaron Norris,MBA, APR,CSPG

The Norris Group

Stephanie Chandler is the founder and CEO of the Nonfiction Authors Association and the Nonfiction Writers Conference (a 3 day virtual annual event). She is also the founder of, an educational blog for entrepreneurs. Stephanie is a frequent speaker at business events and has been featured in Entrepreneur, BusinessWeek, Inc., and Wired magazine.

If you’re a speaker or an up and coming speaker who is thinking about writing a nonfiction book to promote yourself as an expert in your field, I would highly recommend contacting Stephanie. A prolific writer herself, she is dedicated to mentoring nonfiction writers who want to benefit from her years of knowledge in the industry.

Do all speakers need to write a book?

Absolutely! I’ve never met a speaker who regretted publishing a book.

What are the advantages of having a nonfiction book as a speaker?

A book adds instant credibility and is a powerful tool for getting you in the door. Imagine sending a copy of your book out to prospects along with your marketing package? A book is powerful!

How do you establish yourself as an expert in your field?

A book is a quick way to claim your AUTHORity. There are many additional ways to establish yourself as an expert include blogging, hosting a podcast, producing videos, getting active with social media and writing for industry news sites and publications.

What is the biggest hurdle for beginning writers?

Some people struggle with the writing process or get overwhelmed by the idea of writing an entire book. But it doesn’t have to be as difficult as you think. Start with a solid outline. I use the storyboard method where I take a stack of index cards and write out every single topic I want to cover in my book, and then I start to organize those cards into a logical flow. That’s how I form chapters and the outline for the book.

Next, set a goal of writing 1,000 words per day—that’s just three typed pages. In 60 days you’ll have a 60,000-word manuscript!

Which comes first, the book or the speaking career?

For me the book came first, and then I started getting invited to speak (and consult!). But there are no hard rules. If you’re already speaking, then get to work on the book. If you’re working on a book, there’s no reason you can’t also begin speaking. Ideally, all of us should be doing both: writing and speaking. They just go hand-in-hand.

What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned from putting on the Non Fiction Writers Conference?

Oh boy, lots of lessons! It’s a lot more work than people think. I suppose my biggest lesson, which applies to business in general, is to have a great team to help. There is no way I could do all of this on my own. I have great support from the people I’ve hired. Every speaker and author should have an experienced assistant!

Thanks, Stephanie, for taking time out of your busy schedule to speak to Speaker Sponsor. 

Stephanie can be reached at:

According to the sponsorship organization IEG, global sponsorship is projected to grow 4.7 % in 2016. Just in North America alone the increase is expected to be 4.5%, bringing total spending to over 22 billion dollars this year.

Keep in mind that 70% of all of this sponsorship will be spent in the sports industry, but that still leaves 23% for arts, entertainment and cause sponsorship. This is good news for speakers who are looking to supplement those free speaking jobs with sponsorship. And even better news if you’re a speaker/artist who has a cause topic.

Sponsorship looks like it will outperform advertising and marketing. One reason is because brands are looking for ways to deliver a two-way message instead of just a one way message.

A newspaper, magazine or TV ad is a one way message. The ads don’t talk back. But with social media and sponsorship you can have a two-way conversation that is interactive with your customer. Millennials are especially interested in interacting with brands these days.

Even small businesses, who have typically been left out of the sponsorship game, are starting to realize that they can also sponsor, even if it’s not in the same multi-million dollar game as the big corporations. This is great news, since there are over 25 million small businesses just in the U.S. alone.

With advertising and marketing budgets being cut left and right, sponsorship has still been holding steady for the past few years, and has even increased.

Sponsorship is based on long term, mutually beneficial relationships between a brand (the sponsor), and an a sponsee. Speakers and artists should start developing those relationships as early as possible and nurture them. A speaker or artist can create a whole career with sponsorships alone. The money is there, and the need, according to IEG, will only increase in 2016. So it’s time to jump in the sponsorship game and start getting a piece of that multi billion dollar pie.




The first job I had when I moved to L.A. was being a bartender at the comedy club The Laugh Factory. As I stood behind the safety of the bar I remember thinking “I’m glad I’m not the one having to deal with hecklers”. But now that I work as a speaker I’m getting a little taste of what it feels like. Though speakers don’t get heckled nearly as much as comedians do, it still happens, and it’s a good idea to be prepared if it does.

I asked comedians and speakers how to handle a heckler:

“There’s a guaranteed way to avoid heckling in the first place – be riveting.
So many comedians get up there and try new jokes at important shows. The
time to try new stuff is in front of drunks at 1 AM in comedy clubs, not at
big paid events.

I have never been heckled per se, but one time in India, a very drunk woman
was yelling out incoherent things after everything I said. I completely
ignored her, and just talked over her. It’s easy to do because the comedian
has the microphone.

After my set, however, I did a T-shirt giveaway and she yelled out “What
size is it?” and without missing a beat, I said “It’s too small for you”.”

Dan Nainan – Dan Nainan

Dan got his start by taking a comedy class to get over the nervousness of speaking on stage in his job as a demo engineer with Intel Corporation. After leaving Intel to pursue comedy, he has toured with Russell Peters and other notable comedians. Dan has appeared on network television including “Last Comic Standing” as well as in feature films, on radio and in an Apple commercial. He just completed a comedy tour of India.


“To handle hecklers, I’ve found a couple of techniques that seem to work:

* During the Q&A session, I make a point of saying, “Any questions
related to the topic we just discussed?” as opposed to saying, “Any
questions?” Now when the heckler wants to take center stage and bring up
another topic, I can respond by saying, “Glad to discuss this offline at the
end. However, right now we are focused on [topic at hand].” (more…)

The recent IMEX America Conference in Las Vegas was a good glimpse into the future of the meetings industry. Meeting planners and executives from around the world shared their knowledge and inside information about where the meetings and events industry is headed for 2015.

Cvent and American Express co-sponsored a survey that was sent out to global meeting and event planners from all segments of the industry to get an idea of where they believed things were headed.

The bad news is that globally meetings are predicted to remain flat, and budgets are expected to decrease. I know this isn’t what speakers want to hear. But if you know where things stand, at least you can learn how to work around it. As a speaker you’ll need to start bringing even more value to meeting planners, since they will be working with lower budgets, yet still trying to get the best speakers possible.

The outlook for North America looks slightly more positive. Though spending will remain flat, the number of actual meetings is expected to go up very slightly. The bright spot in all of this is that training and development is expected to rise. This goes along with the added value you’ll need to bring to the table. Motivational speaking isn’t going out of style anytime soon, but it has to come with good, solid, actionable content that can be delivered in multiple ways.

The biggest increase in spending comes from Central and South America. Training and development and spending are both expected to increase. If you haven’t thought about expanding your speaking business into this area, now may be a good time to start connecting with planners who work in this region.

The number of local meetings, especially in large cities, is expected to become more popular. This is one reason small business micro-sponsorship is more important than ever. And it’s one reason local speakers with their own sponsors will have a competitive advantage over other speakers.

When you think of a conference, you usually think of the usual stuff, like speakers speaking on topics you want to learn about, panel discussions with experts who know what’s going on in your industry, and an agenda that’s pre-planned and written up in a conference brochure.

But what if you went to a conference that didn’t have any of that? Instead it’s a conference where you pay to share your own advice, kind of like event crowd sourcing.

Well, there is such a conference. It’s actually called the Nortech Innovation Unconference being held September 24, 2014 at the Cleveland Convention Center. It’s being marketed to inventors, innovators, and entrepreneurs who are interested in having a community conversation about innovation in North East Ohio.

Apparently Ohio companies feel like this is a good idea. Twenty two sponsors have already signed up, such as AT&T, Medical Mutual, and Rockwell Automation. Manufacturing and technology are ripe for reinvention in North East Ohio. And the sponsors who are participating feel that an open discussion with business and innovation leaders is just the right way to start the process.

As an innovator I love the idea of doing anything unique and out of the box, especially events. I couldn’t guess whether it would work or not, since I’ve never heard of it being done. But that’s what makes innovation so great, is that it’s experimental. You never know what could happen unless you try it. Maybe the same ‘ole way works, but what if you tried it a different way? I’m betting they’ll discover some things they’ll keep and some they’ll discard. Just like innovation. Not every idea is a winner. And you always discover things you didn’t know would come out of it because it’s a new way of working.

Now, as an innovation speaker, I hate the idea because it would put me out of business. Again, this is part of the process of innovation. Everything changes. And if that change is an improvement, you keep it. Think about how blacksmiths must have felt with the invention of the automobile? They always had plenty of work, and the profession was looked at with awe. Blacksmiths were thought to be magical, and the blacksmith profession was looked at as being lucky. Until innovation changed all that.

So, are speakers going to become obsolete? Probably not. But the lesson here is that you always need to look ahead. Even as a speaker, you need to be innovating yourself, because you never know how the event industry is going to change. And when it does, will you be more like Henry Ford or a blacksmith?

What are you doing as a speaker to innovate?



As a speaker it’s hard to know exactly what meeting planners need and how you can best provide it. Unless you ask. That’s exactly what Meetings and Conventions magazine did recently. They polled 117 meeting planners to find out their thoughts on the perfect speaker. Here’s what they had to say:

91% of meeting planners said that relevance to their audience was at the top of the list when it came to picking a speaker. That makes sense. The audience is really all that matters. They’re the ones paying the fee to the conference and they expect to get what they pay for. Great content that speaks to them.

So, as a speaker, instead of trying to fit a square peg into a round hole, go straight to the audiences who will really, really like you. I know we would like to be able to speak to anyone and everyone, but it’s better to play to your strengths and get in front of those audiences you’re already perfect for. And the ones you prefer speaking to.

Next on the list was cost. 71% of speakers will book a speaker based on cost. 34% pay less than $5,000, 13% don’t pay speakers at all, and 53% pay between 5 and $50,000. On the list of speakers everyone agreed they liked the most, most of them were at the celebrity level. But less than 10% of meeting planners were hiring them.

As far as the type of keynote topics they prefer, industry related was at the top, with motivational still pretty strong. It seems like there are far fewer general topics than there were in the previous years. There are a lot more regulatory speakers than previous years, especially with changes in healthcare. So if you’re a specialized speaker in an industry-related topic, you’re probably going to be in demand. Looks like the light and fluffy stuff is out for now.

Knowing that this is what they’re looking for, is there a way you can brush up on those in-demand industry topics and maybe even integrate them into what you have now? Is there a certification course you can master to make yourself more employable?

Unemployed people in the job market are having to do the same thing. Just like them, every day is a job search for us too.






Anyone can make predictions about the future of the meetings industry, but no one has a crystal ball to give a definitive answer. We’ve combed through studies from IMEX, Destination Hotels & Resorts and American Express, along with other experts and have tried to distill it down to several key points that most everyone agrees on.

  • Budgets are still tight – Spending for meetings in North America appears to be flat right now, with a slight 1.5% increase in actual meetings being held. Spending for meetings in Europe seems to be decreasing. Everyone is demanding more ROI. If you’re a speaker, you simply must be bringing in more value. Fluff doesn’t cut it anymore.
  • More social media integration– Companies will be using social media in new and different ways for content creation and networking. Social media allows attendees to talk about and share information before, during, and after the event. People who attend the event can review it, and hopefully shape future events.
  • More complex and rigorous approvals – Senior level executives must often approve meeting budgets above a certain amount, which will slow down the approval process. A shift will be towards more revenue focused meetings.
  • More local meetings – Expect companies to start having more local meetings and fewer large meetings where everyone has to travel a great distance. Many will also be combining those meetings with local volunteer charity.
  • Lower priced hotels – Meeting planners have said they are going with lower priced hotels and giving attendees fewer options. Some also said their food and beverage budgets have been cut.

So, how does this affect you as a speaker? You could get upset about it, or you could see it as an opportunity to start bringing more and more value to a company as a speaker. How can you help a meeting planner with their social media? Or meeting promotion?

The dilemma meeting planners are in is that they are looking for the best speakers to speak for the least amount of money so they can fit it into their budget. With attendees demanding more value, hiring good speakers becomes critical.

You can help the meeting planners out by agreeing to speak for free, if they will let you get your own sponsor. They’re much more willing to work with you on it if they can get a valuable speaker.

Don’t be discouraged. Live meetings aren’t going away. Yes, there may be more virtual meetings, but the bottom line is you can’t have a networking dinner or share a glass of wine over the computer. Live meetings with interesting and entertaining speakers are here to stay.