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.