How to Find and Hire a Professional Safety Speaker
You’ve decided to spend some money and hire a speaker for your upcoming company safety event, but where do you even start? Finding a safety speaker who is right for your team, your budget and your goals are all important. So, before you even start contacting safety speakers, think about your budget and how much you are willing to spend. Decide what you want the speaker to do for you and your team.
This process my seem overwhelming if you’ve never done it before. But lots of other people have, so you can find help all around you. Begin by considering the theme of your meeting. Identify your goals or learning objectives for this event. What results are you hoping to see?
Remember that your goal is not to entertain your team, although you do want them to be engaged with the speaker and humor is often a direct way to do that. You want them to learn several take-aways about safety that they can use right away. You also want them to develop a passion for safety and not approach it with dread and just check off a box that they met some requirements.
Let me simplify the process for you! Here are 5 tips for hiring a safety speaker.
Tip #1: Finding a speaker
Don’t tackle this challenge alone! Chose two or three people on your team to collaborate with you so you can spread out the work. Try for a good mix of folks — vary the age, gender, and experience of your committee to broaden the representation of your workforce. Give everyone their assignment with a timetable to meet to share their findings and recommendations.
Begin with speakers you’ve heard, perhaps at a meeting of your professional or industry association. You can also reach out to those groups to see what speakers they might recommend or have used in the past.
Look to industry associates in other cities to see who they may have used or heard. Explore your professional contacts and companies you do business with. Perhaps your insurance company, your attorney, or your safety equipment salesperson has heard someone who was particularly outstanding.
Ask around and get input from your team, sister plants and corporate. I spoke for a client at their corporate level, and then one of their local plants. When another plant reached out to me (without knowing I had previously spoken for the company) they were going through the interview process with me. When they found out I had a letter of recommendation and was in their accounts payable system, they booked me on the spot. I was super happy to work with them, but it might have been easier to skip some of the research steps and ask around the company.
Search the Internet and LinkedIn for speakers and speaker bureaus as well. Demo videos are plentiful and an excellent way to start narrowing down the possibilities for your short list. Be sure your speaker has what is called a “sizzle reel” – no, I am not loving that phrase either, but it is something every pro safety speaker should have to preview their work.
Tip #2: Finding the RIGHT speaker
Outline the goals and learning objectives of your event. Decide what you want to accomplish. Clearly, you want the attendees to learn something, but you also want them to be motivated to make safety a part of their every-day routine. You don’t want a speaker to drone on about following the rules. You want a speaker who will inspire and excite your team to adopt safe practices for their own sake, to go home to their families every day. You want them to discard that “It can’t happen to me” attitude with the realization that it could. A great safety speaker can inspire new behaviors from your team.
Consider the demographics of your audience and what type of speaker will get through to them. Reflect on your successes and failures in the past, what worked and what didn’t. Is the speaker for your C-suite so they can learn the business side of safety, or is your speaker for the workers with dirty boots? Some safety speakers can deliver an impactful message to both audiences together or separately. Some cannot.
Decide exactly what you want your team members to do following this meeting. Determine what take-aways you want them to put into practice immediately. Be prepared to share these with your chosen speaker and find out how they would make certain it happened. If your speaker states that they do the same program every time, without customizing for the audience, I might recommend you keep looking for a safety speaker who wants to help you team as much as you do!
Tip #3: Determining your budget
Speaker fees can vary greatly with all different sized businesses paying all different pricing from paying $5,000 – $15,000 or more. Determine what your budget is and be ready to be flexible if you can. You are making an investment in your team, and you should see measurable returns on that investment. It is hard to directly associate a professional safety speaker with a reduction in losses. But look for the leading indicators not just lagging. Do you see inspiration, safer behaviors or your staff talking about the impact of the speaker afterwards? Ask your team for feedback on your speaker and the topic. Beyond just an injury story or a laugh, how can your speaker change the way your people think?
Consider the total cost of the event outside of the speaker fee. You could already be spending a great deal of money on a venue, staff time coordinating and planning all the details, food, refreshments, prizes, production time lost. The cost of getting the right speaker will make all those other expenditures more than worthwhile.
Most speakers can be flexible and will negotiate with you regarding fees. Find out if they will be speaking to another organization in your area or could work your dates in on their way to another engagement. With airfares skyrocketing, anything you can do to lessen their expenses would be a huge help. I can’t speak for all professional safety speakers, but if we really connect during the interview and I truly believe you are looking to change the way your team thinks and behaves, I will do my best to make it happen for you. But don’t forget, this is our profession. So many budding safety speakers have to give their speeches for free for years to establish credibility, and eventually we have to start charging so our business can survive.
Tip #4: Understanding a speaker contract
Your attorney should interpret any legalese in any contract, but there are a few basic areas where you should pay particular attention. Determine what expenses are included and what will be extras. Consider airfare, hotel, ground transportation, tips, and meals and which of these you can possibly absorb. Years ago, I stopped submitting expenses to clients and just offered a flat fee that included my fee. My clients LOVED it! Turns out they did not like to have to process expense reports any more than I did. It also allows you to know what exact fees to expect with no surprises.
Look at what cancellation clauses are included, by the speaker or by you, and what those entail. During Covid, I let all the cancellation clauses lapse. No one lost any money from cancellations; everything was just postponed and eventually I got to visit all the people.
Be certain that a specific time is included for how long the speaker will speak or be available to you during and/or after the event.
Talk to the speaker on the phone or in a video call or in person if that is possible, before you sign on. Be sure he/she understands your goals and what you want to accomplish. When the speaker understands your level of commitment to safety and a safe work environment, they may be even more willing to negotiate with you.
Tip #5: Getting the most from your speaker’s time
Once the speaker has reached your location, their major expense has been accomplished. How much more time is he/she willing to give you? Besides the major speech they have contracted to give, might they also be available for a break-out session with your key leaders? Or a question-and-answer session with the attendees? Is there time for a job site or facility tour before the speaker addresses the group? Do you want them at the dinner event the night before, or for them to hang around the rest of the day to interact with your team? What else might they be willing to do for you before they catch their plane out of Dodge? It’s worth your while to ask and explore the possibilities!
Hopefully, these 5 tips have helped you plan your approach to hiring a professional safety speaker and have taken some of the anxiety about this major decision away. You can do this! Have a great meeting!
Would you like a free 15-minute consultation about how to find the right speaker for your team? Just head over to reginamcmichael.com and leave me note of request!