Tuesday, April 3, 2012

While slightly under two-thirds of organizations reported using speaker bureaus for ideas for new
presenters, in a separate question, over 86 percent of those surveyed reported using bureaus for
recommending and hiring professional speakers at least sometimes (regardless of whether they’re

Organizations that offer continuing education credit for their meetings are more likely to use speaker
bureaus frequently or always than those that don’t (43.8 percent compared with 33.3 percent), as are
organizations that offer a certification program compared to those that don’t (45.0 percent versus
36.7 percent). But while that increase in frequency of use among organizations offering CE is
accompanied by an uptick in the perceived value of speaker bureaus (44.8 percent of them find the
bureaus very or extremely valuable, while only 35.7 percent of organizations not offering CE at their meetings do), there’s no significant change in the perceived value among organizations with certification programs.

Organizations that use assessments and evaluations to measure whether learning occurs at their meetings are also more likely to see greater value in using speaker bureaus—32.1 percent said they
are very valuable versus only 20.7 of non-measuring organizations.

The size of the professional speaker budgets also appears correlated with the perceived value of speaker bureaus. Only 4.8 percent of organizations with professional speaker budgets of $5,000 to $20,000 find bureaus extremely valuable versus an impressive 34.4 percent of organizations with budgets over $100,000.

Use of speaker bureaus is high and holding steady for most organizations (66.2 percent) but is on the
decline for almost a quarter of respondents who reported their organization used speaker bureaus
less over the last two years than previously. Only 9.2 percent reported an increased use of speaker
bureaus over the last two years. Nearly 60 percent of respondents rated speaker bureaus as only moderately or slightly valuable or not at all valuable. This makes us wonder if speaker bureaus won’t
be subject to more scrutiny in these belt tightening times unless speaker bureaus capitalize on the huge opportunity to position themselves as true partners and respected consultants, which may require them to make recommendations outside of their portfolio or without speaker incentives to gain long-term trust.

We believe speaker exclusivity (which forces organizations to use particular speaker bureaus) may explain the apparent discrepancy between the high use of speaker bureaus and the comparatively
lower satisfaction with their value. Given that situation and that 41.7 percent of organizations do find them very or extremely valuable, speaker bureaus are likely to remain an important way of finding those star speakers.

written by Jeff Cobb, Jeff Hurt, Dave Lutz, and Celisa Steele
published by Tagoras and Velvet Chainsaw Consulting

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