How to Book a Speaker: How Far in Advance Should I Plan My Event?

This is the third installment in a new series on how to book a speakerin which we will guide you through the process of selecting a speaker and bringing him or her to your event. Please call us at 800.225.4575 or contact us on our website with any questions on how to book a speaker.
If you’re booking a speaker for your engagement, the date of your event will largely depend on your speaker’s availability. While some speakers may be able to commit to a speaking engagement a few weeks prior to your event, others may require a set date nine months in advance due to their hectic schedules. Essentially, planning your event around a speaker’s availability may require some long-term preparation and some flexibility.
You should call a speakers bureau as soon as you begin the initial planning stages of your event. Ideally, you should try to secure a speaker at least six months in advance. The earlier you start the booking process, the more choices you will have in selecting a speaker. However, you may not be able to begin planning your event so far in advance. Even if you are time-crunched, a speakers bureau can help you secure your talent on short notice. 
APB speakers Nicholas Kristof and Archbishop Desmond Tutu
If you have a particular speaker in mind…
  • You should call a speakers bureau to book that speaker at least six months in advance (if possible). 
  • A program consultant will inform you of that speaker’s general availability and begin talking with that speaker to book him or her for your event. Program consultants educate speakers on your business, organization, association, or school so that they can get a sense of who your audience is and tailor their message to your group. In addition to working to getting your speaker of choice excited about speaking to your audience, program consultants also work to find the best fee possible for you. (More on fees in the upcoming How to Book a Speaker: The Cost of Booking a Speaker.)
If you’re not sure who you’d like to book yet…
  • You should call a speakers bureau as early as nine months to a year in advance if possible.
  • A program consultant will guide you through the process of choosing the right speaker for your engagement (see How to Book a Speaker: Finding the Right Speaker for Your Event), which may last as long as a few months if you must present your choice of a speaker to a committee or other decision makers in your organization. By planning this far in advance, you’ll be able to compare fees and availability for a wide range of speakers, allowing your committee to work in tandem with a program consultant to narrow that list down and figure out which speaker would be best for your organization. 

The type of speaker you want to book also determines how far in advance you should begin the booking process.

The following table provides a suggested timeline for beginning the booking process. Keep in mind that these are rough estimates and that timelines will always vary depending on the speaker. These are some general guidelines to help you get an idea of when you should start the process, but you should definitely contact a speakers bureau even if you’ve passed these benchmarks!

Type of Speaker
When You Should Start Planning
6 months out
6 months out
6 months out
6-9 months out
6-9 months out
Best-Selling Author
9-12 months out
Head of State
12 months out
Nationally Known Speaker
12 months out
Depending on how famous or how high in demand the speakers are in the categories above, you should begin working with a speakers bureau sooner rather than later. For example, you may be able to secure a local journalist six months in advance but may need to request a world-renowned journalist closer to nine or 12 months in advance because of that journalist’s travelling schedule. Once again, the sooner you begin working with a speakers bureau, the better.
Due to filming and appearance schedules, celebrities often commit to speaking events three to four months in advance – or even later than that. You should still begin working with a program consultant at least six months in advance so that he or she may approach alternative speakers in case your first choice is unable to commit at the last minute. In the initial planning stages, you should come up with a list of three to five speakers you would want to have at your event to make sure at least one of your options works out. If you have the proper budget (see the upcoming How to Book a Speaker: The Cost of Booking a Speaker) and the timing is right, you will most likely have your first choice, but it’s important to have backups, just in case!
Nationally known speakers may include best-selling authors, high-profile politicians, renowned CEOs, and other figures of national repute. You should begin speaking with a speakers bureau six to 12 months in advance to secure this sort of talent.
APB speaker America Ferrera at a book signing
The earlier you start the process of booking a speaker, the more choices you will have. And the earlier you secure a speaker, the more time you will have to actually plan your event and draw attention to it through your marketing efforts.
Other helpful tips:
  • Have several dates in mind when you call a speakers bureau in order to increase your chances of landing the speaker of your choice.
  • Be willing to book an alternative speaker to the one you initially had in mind. Speakers bureaus such as APB specialize in providing niche market speakers who share similar experiences and backgrounds. If your first choice falls through, a program consultant can recommend a number of speakers who deliver keynotes in a similar vein as your first choice.
Still have questions on how far in advance you should plan your event? We are happy to suggest a timeline and answer any questions you may have on how to book a speaker. Call us at 800.225.4575 or contact us on our websiteto get started.
Next time: 
How to Book a Speaker: The Cost of Booking a Speaker
How to Book a Speaker: Finding the Right Speaker for Your Event

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