January 18, 2018

More than one way to cut the cost of bringing a speaker to your campus

Every CAB in the land is looking for ways to stretch the student activities budget to its limits. As the country goes, so goes the campus. Believe it or not, your speaker can help. By coordinating a few things in advance and taking a few minutes to work with the speaker or their rep, you might be able to cut a pretty sweet deal. Try throwing a few of the ideas below into your standard negotiations and over the course of a budget year you’ll see the difference.

Cut the cost of bringing a speaker to your campus - Photo Copyright 2011 Rick Sherrell

Book waaaay in advance – The further the better. This has several advantages. Number one, like everyone else as speakers grow in knowledge and experience they tend to raise their rates from year to year. By booking as soon as your budget becomes available you may avoid next year’s increases. Number two, it gives the speaker a chance to  get the best travel rates. Who knows, you may be able to get them to pass on the savings to you.

Eat the speaker’s expenses – Speaking of expenses, most speakers are going to ask you to pay for their air travel, hotel accommodation, meals, ground transportaion, etc. This is pretty normal and it could range from a lump fee to a reimbursment process. A few ways to eat those expenses yourself and maybe save a few bucks.

1. Put ’em up in on-campus housing – Many schools have housing designated for this purpose. You can alos book them in a hotel that gives the school a special rate or where you have an account. Make and pay for the room reservation yourself and realize the savings. If you go the hotel route, make sure the speaker knows they are responsible for their own incidental room charges – ordering room service, raiding the mini-bar, ordering the plush robe to take home, etc. If you do allow some expenses, make sure you put a cap on it.

2. Feed ’em – Speakers have to eat when they’re on the road and they often include that in their expenses. But most speakers appreciate having lunch or dinner with your students, faculty of staff. Include them in any meals associated with your event or invite them to lunch or dinner with your leaders or event planners. Let them know that you’ve pre-arranged meals so their expenses can reflect that.

3. Take ’em for a joy ride – Okay, not litterally, but you could pick them up at the airport, get them from the hotel to the campus and to lunch and back, thinks like that. Many speakers will find joy in the opportunity to build relationships with you as part of their audience both before and after the event. Time spent in the car is a great way to get to kow each other and save a few taxi or rental car bucks to boot. The speaker will also appreciate not having to deal with traffic, unfamilar streets or that not always so reliable GPS.

Book ’em twice Danno – It’s called ‘block booking’ and there are more than a few ways to skin this cat…

1. Twice in one day – Many speakers will have a half day rate or throw in a second talk for no extra charge! Don’t be afraid to ask because most speakers love the interaction speaker and will usually make themselves available right up until flight time.

2. Twice in one week – This works well during week long events like welcome week, sexual assault awareness week, etc. You can also partner with another campus organization or department, another campus, or another local school or organization on back-to-back dates. The speaker will offer you a great rate and you may only have to pay one set of travel expenses. You may also be able to share the cost with your partner and spare your budget even more.

3. Twice during a semester or academic year – This works well for events that happen more than once each year… like orientation, orientation training, student leader training, study skills workshops, etc. Book the same speaker for both events and you’ll get a great rate for sure. Speakers love the opportunity to deliver a consistent message to your student body and reinforce their trainings to help you build a stronger campus community. Most speakers have multiple part trainings and will also have the opportunity to vary and customize their message knowing in advance that they’ll be returning.

4. Bring ’em back each year – Many speakers will give you the same price they gave you the previous year as long as you bring them back for consecutive years. Locking a speaker/trainer in for consecutive years a great way to spread a consistent year-to-year message on your campus as your students matriculate through. You’ll also avoid their inevitable rate increases I mentioned earlier.

Buy one, get one – Try booking two speakers from the same bureau, agency or representative. Often times the speakers are willing to partner and offer special rates through their agent in this manner. Sometime the speakers will work together (like two leadership trainers or two dating experts) but that’s not a requirement. They could be speakers on two totally different topics, for two different events and two different times of the year. But by simply planning ahead for what your needs will be, you can get a better rate by combining seemingly unrelated events.

Cash out early – If your school’s policy and your budget will allow it, pay for your speaker in advance. You may be booking an event for later down the road, but many speakers will offer a discount if you pay in advance. If they don’t offer the discount, ask for it. (PS. make sure the speaker and/or agent has an acceptable refund or substitute speaker policy, just in case.)

Go Green – For the sake of both efficiency and the environment, many speakers will appreciate conducting the entire transaction electronically – that includes agreements, invoices and if possible event payment via credit card or electronic funds transfer. If you can avoid killing any trees and make it happen without paper ever seeing the light of day, ask for a GO GREEN discount. You never know.


 This series of posts will help you get better student turnout at all of your campus events and will work especially well for speaker-based events. Remember to always enlist the help your guest speaker or trainer in your promotional efforts. Look for powerful Student Learning Outcomes that lead to immediate or future success.

Series Navigation<< 6 teamwork tips for leading student activitiesTell ’em, tell ’em, and tell ’em again for a successful campus event >>
About the Author: Rick Sherréll (12 Posts)

Rick Sherréll is the Blogitor (Blog Editor) here at CampusTalkBlog and agent for the college speakers at Pro Speakers Bureau. In his entrepreneurial life he has been a writer, editor, speaker, trainer, marketer, coach, IT specialist, consultant, event planner, broadcaster, fundraiser and innovator. Find out more at www.RickSherrell.com and www.ProSpeakersBureau.com/about.


  1. Millicent St. Claire says:

    Great suggestions, Rick! I’ve developed some fantastic relationships with local universities in Atlanta and they’ve been bringing me back each year for their summer college-prep program or teacher trainings.

    In addition, it’s also important that we as speakers bring incredible value and make our programs relevant to students’ needs. Many campuses are operating on limited budgets, and as speakers and trainers, we have to go the extra mile – above and beyond – to bring quality programming to students.

    The bottom line is that it’s up to us as to deliver VALUE – especially in today’s environment! Our job is to enhance – and add to – their educational experience. I don’t take this for granted. I continue to improve my study skills and accelerative learning programs, expand what I’m doing and make my offerings unforgettable each time. The only way that happens is if the students really learn something. If they don’t, that’s a terrible price to pay!


  2. That’s another great idea @DaveGonzoKelly. Let me repeat that one – “Keep an eye on the speakers you like. Friend them on Facebook, follow them on Twitter, subscribe to their newsletters. Watch for gaps in their schedule when they are on the road. They may be willing to offer a discount for an open date and a hotel room on a day when they would be just sitting around. Better to be with your students than just hanging in a hotel room.”

    Thanks for the great comment. That’s why you’re America’s Student LEadership Trainer. Folks should follow and friend you so they can always get a gfreat rate. For sharingsuch a great idea everybody can get socially linked to you by visiting here: http://www.prospeakersbureau.com/davekelly/. Look for GET SOCIAL WITH DAVE in the right hand column.

    Stay busy in 2011 Dave! PEACE.

  3. All I can say is “Ditto”! Great blog post, Rick! I know I appreciate working with the same schools as often as possible. I do lock in my rate for a school that books me in consecutive years. I have one community college that has had me for three consecutive years and the rate has stayed the same throughout. Another thought: keep an eye on the speakers you like. Friend them on Facebook, follow them on Twitter, subscribe to their newsletters. Watch for gaps in their schedule when they are on the road. They may be willing to offer a discount for an open date and a hotel room on a day when they would be just sitting around. Better to be with your students than just hanging in a hotel room. I know from experience: I have one of those days this next week!

Share your comments with us...