Defining the Ideal Speaker

Defining the Ideal Speaker
Marnie Swedberg

Your group has a unique personality – as does every speaker. In fact, each event has a personality of its own. Before you begin your search for a speaker, clarify these details:

* What is the purpose of this event?

– Just for fun? You’ll need an enthusiastic speaker with a sense of humor.

– Spiritual renewal weekend? You’ll need theologically sound teaching balanced with personal stories, humor, and a listening pray-er.

– Ladies Night Out? Find a speaker who can match an encouraging Scriptural challenge to the interesting hobby/craft everyone will learn that night. Or, invite a speaker who can do both: teach a useful skill and provide spiritual wealth.

* What part of the program will be given to the speaker?

– One 20 minute section?
– Several 60 minutes sections?

* How much money can you afford to pay a speaker?

– Could you charge for tickets with $1-3/ticket going to the speaker?
– Do you have generous givers who would respond to a love offering?

* How much of the program’s success rests on the speaker?

– Does she need to be well known? Will people come if they don’t recognize her name? Well-known speakers are pricey and must be booked 1-3 years in advance.

– Could you select a seasoned speaker that is less well-known and be fine?

– If you invite a less-experienced speaker, but one that has a heart to speak and a story to share, could other parts of the program make up for possible weaknesses in her presentation?

* Does her style and statement of faith match your group?

When you consider all the other unique denominations, you begin to grasp the delicacy required in both finding the right speaker and being the right speaker.

The key factors are:

1. Her statement of faith should match yours.

2. Her motivational gifts should match your needs.

A speaker with a powerful altar ministry may be one group’s “best speaker ever” and another group’s “nightmare.”

3. It should be her practice to avoid triggering denominational hot buttons.

Finding Speakers

The #1 way to find a speaker is by word-of-mouth. However, when that pool runs dry, consider visiting and contact Gwyn Oakes to see who might be available in your area. Or contact the ladies ministries at their email Address:, Physical Address: Ladies Ministries, 8855 Dunn Road, Hazelwood MO 63042, For Booking Info: 314.837.7304
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Contacting Speakers

To reduce confusion, select one person, and one person only, to interact with potential speakers. During the first contact with a potential speaker, the Speaker Coordinator should:

* Give the speaker a little background about your group.
* Describe the upcoming event.
* Ask if the speaker is at all interested.
* Ask if the date is available for her.
* Ask about her fees.

If all is o.k., request more information from the speaker, including her statement of faith and any written materials, or a recording of a talk she’s given, for your team to review.

Let her know if she is the only speaker you are considering, or one of several.

Close the conversation by providing her with the exact date you anticipate to call her again, plus your name, telephone number and email address. Ask if she would be willing to please call you before accepting an engagement with someone else for the same date.

Securing A Speaker

When the committee has chosen a speaker, the Speaker Coordinator should call and then follow-up the call with written details.

Things to include are:

* Dates and Times
* Number and Duration of Talks
* Location
* Event Purpose/Goals
* Event Theme
* Key verse or quote, etc.
* Anticipated audience size and ages
* Appropriate attire
* Transportation details (if applicable)
* A copy of your doctrinal statement

Ask about:

* Microphones
* Overheads or Power Point needs
* Other special needs

Hosting A Speaker

Assign a Speaker’s Hostess who will take the ball from the Speaker Coordinator about one week before the event. She should call the speaker 7-10 days ahead of the event, introduce herself and confirm that everything is set. She should tell the speaker that it will be her meeting the speaker at the airport or event location and caring for her needs until she leaves.

Do you need a Speaker’s Hostess?

No, however, I was speaking at a large facility recently and needed a Kleenex. It was a simple thing, but I didn’t know my way around, didn’t see anyone in charge, and found the lines at the bathrooms too long for my time constraint. I ended up using a piece of notebook paper – which was fine, but you get the point. A hostess simply helps in whatever way is needed. She introduces the speaker to the event coordinators, sound people, and others; she sees that there is water at the podium, and in similar ways cares for the speaker so the speaker can focus on the needs of the women.

Encourage the Hostess to use balance: don’t “hound” the speaker, but rather make yourself available via a cell phone number and frequent check-ins – especially between closely-scheduled sessions. Ask about her food needs: many speakers prefer to speak on an empty stomach and may appreciate a light snack following a dinner presentation. Finally, do not disturb the speaker once she has gone to her room. By retiring, she indicates that her needs have been met.
Paying Your Speaker

A good speaker spends a lot of time – at least the equivalent of one full day, preparing for a single engagement. That means, if she provides you with four talks for a retreat, she has invested over 30 hours into your group before she even arrives at the retreat location.

While few speakers expect to be paid an hourly wage for this, it is important to consider what you are able to provide in way of financial help:

* Be sure to cover her travel expenses. Most husbands put their foot down early-on if speaking engagements drain both his wife’s energy and the family resources. This is a legitimate concern and can be avoided by treating your speakers well.

* At minimum, cover any other expenses she may incur. In my earlier years of speaking, I often had to pay a babysitter for the hours I was gone from home. I was often “paid” with a plant, a book or a thank you note. While appreciated, it missed the need. Let us be careful to cover the expenses our speakers incur on our behalf.

* If at all possible, pay her a nice honorarium. By adding just $1 to the single-event per-person ticket price, or $3-5 to the per-person weekend-event price, you can provide a nice fee for your speaker without anyone feeling stretched.
You may either give your speaker a thank you note, containing a check, at the event, or mail it to her within 10 days. Your group will need to establish its own policy, but many churches do it this way:

* If the speaker is a member or regular attender of your church/group, her services are part of her ministry to your church/group and need not be remunerated with a financial gift: a small gift and thank you note are sufficient.

* If the speaker is from outside of your fellowship, she needs to be paid for her service to the Lord and to you.

Following Up Afterwards

Within 10-14 days of the event, send the speaker a thank you note. If you haven’t paid her yet, include a check. In your letter, mention any comments you heard regarding her part of the program. Even better, if you collected feedback forms at your event, be sure to forward to the speaker the quotations, good or bad, that related to her ministry. She will appreciate it, but even more importantly, it will help her be a better speaker in the future, as she attempts to submit every detail of her life and ministry to God’s direction.
Excerpted from: Gifts of Encouragement, Inc. By Marnie Swedberg

This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”