Insight, Engagement & Reputation: Why great is always better than cheap when hiring speakers

Hiring a great speaker for an association event can have a significant impact on the success of the event and the association as a whole. A great speaker can inspire, motivate, and educate attendees, providing valuable insights and practical takeaways that can enhance their personal and professional development.

How does this help the association? Well for one thing – your event won’t suck. And if you develop a reputation for excellence in your programs members will be more likely to invest in future events.

More importantly they are likely to STAY members. And as purse strings tighten across industries member retention is going to be critical going forward.

Engaging and Inspiring Attendees

When associations invest in great speakers who engage and inspire attendees, they create a memorable experience that resonates long after the event is over. How many times have you found yourself comparing great conferences you’ve attended with those that fell flat? Is it the food you remember? The quality of the sheets in the hotel? NO! You talk about the programing.

A speaker who is passionate, dynamic, and relatable captures the attention of the audience – your members –  delivering a presentation that is both informative and entertaining. When your members leave every session you want them to be engaged because engaged attendees are more likely to participate fully in the event and take action on the insights and ideas presented by the speaker.

Providing Valuable Insights and Knowledge

Great speakers provide valuable insights and knowledge to attendees, sharing their expertise and experience in a way that is relevant and useful. By providing practical takeaways and actionable strategies, a great speaker helps attendees improve their skills, enhance their knowledge, and advance their careers. This leads to increased satisfaction among association members and a stronger reputation for the association.

This is why it is so important to vet your speakers and watch the video samples they send. Anyone can pull together a fantastic sizzle reel. But your members deserve the steak. Find actual footage of them delivering programs on Youtube or other mediums.

One of the resources you should certainly consider is the Association & Society Speakers Community showcase videos. Here you’ll find speakers delivering portions of their real content – not flashy “best ofs.” Watch mine here. 

Enhancing Reputation and Branding

Hiring a great speaker enhances the reputation and branding of the association. If you are relying on industry speakers who will do the job for free – well you get what you pay for.

Many of the speakers you’ll attract are used to giving sales presentations. And they may struggle to pivot from that format – even if they don’t mean to.

Worse, they have no idea how to present to a large audience or use technology appropriately. I still groan when I think of powerpoints jammed with text.

A well-known and respected speaker lends credibility and prestige to your events, making them more attractive to potential attendees and sponsors. A successful event can also help boost the reputation of the association, positioning it as a leader in its industry or niche. For this alone – a great speaker is always more of an investment than an expense.

Increasing Attendance and Membership

When your organization has a reputation for bringing in great speakers, who deliver fantastic programs, it makes it easier for you to sell future events.

When I was first starting out I had a speaker say to me “There are two types of speakers in the world. Celebrities and the rest of us.”

It was funny. But it was also true. A few years back The National Speakers Association brought in celebrity speakers like George Takai and Steve Forbes to speak at their annual convention. That’s right – an association made up of professional speakers brought in non-speakers to keynote it’s annual convention.

Members grumbled. But they showed up. Celebrity matters.

The truth is a speaker who is well-known draws a larger audience than a subject matter expert. But the price tag can be eye-popping.

Associations should therefore look for the subject matter expert, who also has stage presence and knows how to win the audience. This may not be as flashy as having Mr. Sulu from Star Trek, but for your membership, leaving with a positive return on THEIR investment is critical if they are going to return for you next event.

Delivering those returns will lead to higher member retention and even growth. That’s because a memorable presentation,  from a great speaker encourages attendees to return for future events and recommend the association to their colleagues and peers.

Providing a Positive Return on Investment

Finally you need to remember that hiring a great speaker is an investment and not an expense. Relying on cheap or free speakers may make your event memorable – but probably not in the way you want it to be memorable.

Investing in great speakers leads to great events. And great events can increase membership retention, acquisation and even non-dues revenue.

Bringing in great speakers enhances the reputation and branding of associations, and provides long-term value to attendees, helping them improve their skills and advance their careers.

And in the end your sucess is 100% tied to the success of your members.

Aidan Crawford

Aidan Crawford is president of Short Circuit Media. His main job is helping consultants, trainers and professional speakers get their marketing in order by creating and implementing strategies to help them reach their target audiences.


Let’s have a quick chat about your marketing goals and see how I can help.
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