When You Invite a Speaker

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Churches and other organizations invite speakers on a regular basis. When I have been invited to speak, I have politely declined most invitations. I have a process I go through to decide if I should say yes to a speaking engagement. It involves calculating time for preparation, travel time involved, time I would spend at the event and what work I must say no to in order to accept the invitation. For me, I need to be certain that the benefit of the presentation offsets the other work which I will have to set aside.  

If you are considering inviting a speaker for an event, I believe there are some key factors which will enhance the opportunity for a successful approach. 

This involves sharing the makeup and size of the group. For example, in my case, I speak to business audiences primarily.

2.  Identify your primary goal for the speaker’s presentation.

Do you want your audience to take action or make changes in behavior? I know for me, I’m not particularly motivated to participate in an event that is simply for a good time. I focus on understanding what transformation the event planner wants and how my part would help generate the transformational experience for those attending.

3.  Identify the topic you want the speaker to focus on. 

This helps the speaker understand whether he or she has material for the topic requested. I have material ready for some topics that would require little preparation. Other topics require significant work to develop. I’m less inclined to commit to multiple days of preparation. Also, it helps when the topic connects with a passion the speaker has.

4.  Let the speaker know what you believe he or she has to offer your group.

Most speakers are more inclined to participate when they understand that the organizers believe the speaker will have a significant impact on the event.  Make sure you tell the speaker why you believe their attendance and presentation will be a significant help.

5. Clarify the benefit to the speaker.

Each speaker has a different motivation point.  As King Solomon observed: “The appetite of laborers works for them; their hunger drives them on.” (Proverbs 16:26, NIV) Each speaker will have a different “hunger” that motivates their participation. For some the key ingredient is the size of a speaking fee. For others it may be ministry. Still others may be interested in the opportunity to reach people in an area of the speaker’s passion. For example, I have a hobby of studying and writing about coins of the Bible. I am more inclined to accept a speaking engagement where I can share this passion.

Sometimes when I decline, the event organizer may tell me that I’m missing a good opportunity. Sometimes someone will try to make me feel guilty about declining. I go back to my key question: What do I say no to so that I can say yes to this speaking possibility?

Use these criteria when inviting a speaker. They will give you the best chance of landing the person who will benefit your group the most.