Who is the most expensive speaker you have ever booked?

Well, if I told you his name, they would probably kill me, but it’s an interesting story. A few years ago a client came to us looking for some speaker ideas that would help their Leadership team take their company to the next level. As the discussion progressed and different ideas were evaluated, we decided that what they needed was either a current or former CEO of a Fortune 500 company who could give them some real world examples. These kinds of speakers are hard to pin down because they have such major responsibilities and their schedules can change daily. If you book them four months in advance and get your attendees excited about hearing them speak, it can be a major disappointment when the CEO cancels the night before and sends his VP of Public Relations to take his place at the podium.

With the help of another client, we were able to get the request in front of a former CEO of a major company who we knew was a very good speaker. We also knew from our research that this CEO was personally worth about $300 million, so we had to come up with something other than money to get his attention. Through more research we discovered that the CEO was a big fan of a particular author that we work with, so we made an interesting offer.  If the CEO spoke at our Client’s event, we would arrange for him to have lunch with the author. To our delight, the offer of lunch got his attention, and he accepted. We also had to pay his $150,000 speaking fee and hire a private Lear jet 60 to take him to the event and return home. The final cost of the speaking fee, the Lear jet and the 5 star lunch was close to $200k, and our client said he was worth every penny.

What’s the funniest speaker story you have ever heard?

Several years ago a speaker we work with, let’s call him Gary, was on his way back from spring break with his family, arriving at his home airport at noon on a Tuesday. He knew he had his first post-holiday speech on Thursday, so he took out his Day-Timer to check the actual time. Upon locating the entry in his notebook, he discovered to his horror that the speech was actually at 1:00pm Tuesday – the very day he was returning!

When the plane landed at 12:08pm, he was the first one off. While his wife stayed behind to collect the luggage, he jumped into a cab at 12:35pm. After a frantic 15 minute cab ride, he arrived at the hotel at 12:50pm.  Almost breathless at reception, he told them he was there to attend the Conference in the California Room.

“But there is no event in the California Room today, sir,” the receptionist said. “I think you have the wrong hotel. Try our sister hotel across the street. They have a conference going on today, and they have a California Room.”

Gary took off across four lanes of traffic and straight through the door of the hotel opposite. He followed the signs and got to the doors of the California Room at 12:55pm. He breathed a sigh of relief as the audience was sitting there patiently waiting.  Without missing a beat, he walked straight to the front and began his presentation.  About 15 minutes into his talk, he delivered a key line, “And you would understand being in the pharmaceutical Industry …”

A voice from the second row responded, “We wouldn’t, actually. We’re accountants.”

Gary was in the wrong room in the wrong hotel on the wrong day in front of the wrong audience. The real speaker for the group of accountants was at the back of the room waiting for the seemingly endless introduction to end.

Gary’s Tuesday speech was the following week.