How To Book a Celebrity Speaker
Booking a celebrity to present at your event is a much more involved process than booking any other type of speaker. A celebrity speaker can add great value to an event, including: increasing event attendance, building cachet, driving publicity, supporting social media campaigns and generally increasing overall excitement for the event.
But, most A-list celebrities (film and television actors) rarely accept paid speaking engagements, usually only presenting a few times a year at industry or charity events. If you want to entice a top Hollywood celebrity to speak at your corporate or association event, be prepared to offer low to mid six figures—the “make me move” price.
There are, however, many celebrity names on the speaking circuit within reach. They might not be the biggest current headline names, but can still attract attention and buzz for your event. For the purpose of this article, we are focusing on film and television actors; but depending on your industry, other well-known names from business, sports, politics, famous authors or broadcast news might be a good fit. Many of these big names will also have similar booking requirements to “Hollywood” type celebrities.
The best way to contact a celebrity is through your speakers bureau representative. They will know which celebrities are currently accepting engagements (availability changes constantly), who are good at public speaking and how likely the celebrity will be to actually make the engagement; many celebrities include an “out” clause in their contracts for new filming projects or other professional commitments.
The first step in securing a celebrity for your event is to submit a firm offer request. This is a simple agreement that states information such as: event venue, audience profile, agenda, fee offered, presentation date, etc. The firm offer represents the client’s commitment to book the celebrity under the stated terms, if the celebrity accepts. The firm offer is presented to the celebrity for an answer. If the celebrity accepts the offer, then a binding contract will be generated.
Once you locate and book a celebrity who accepts your offer, here are some things to prepare for:
Program Format: most celebrities prefer a fireside chat and/or moderated Q&A format, rather than a full 60-90 minute keynote. A typical celebrity onsite schedule might look like this:
9:00 a.m. to 9:10 a.m.: Keynote speech.
9:10 a.m. to 9:45 a.m.: Moderated Q&A.
9:45 a.m. to 10:15 a.m.: Photo opportunities and/or book signing.
Celebrities are much less flexible about scheduling changes than other types of professional keynote speakers. You should always stick to you original agenda and timing. Celebrities are much less flexible about altering details initially agreed to in the original contract. Sometimes even small requests can derail the entire booking process and the celebrity may decline. So, be certain to be clear and up-front about all your expectations.
Be sure to schedule all time commitments back to back, most celebrities will request there be no down time during their visit. They will normally arrive close to the beginning of their speaking slot and depart soon after their last time commitment.
Payment: a 50% non-refundable deposit of the honorarium will be due upon signing the contract. A 50% balance will be due at least two weeks before the presentation date. If your procurement department is net 30 or 60 days, than be sure to start the invoicing process quickly. A celebrity speaker is not secured until the deposit is in, and the balance must be paid before the presentation date or the celebrity will most likely not show up.
Glam team: many celebrities will expect hair and make-up to be provided onsite. Sometimes a celebrity will travel with his or her own “glam team” and/or personal assistant. The client will be responsible for covering travel expenses for any additional members of the celebrity’s team.
Autograph sessions: make sure these are clearly and specifically defined, including the number of people and which items will be expected to be autographed. If using a book written by the celebrity, define the title beforehand and determine how the books will be purchased.
Response to your requests: celebrities and their assistants are very busy, resulting in slow response times. So be sure to make any special requests well in advance.
Marketing materials: all promotional materials and announcements will need to be run by the celebrity’s PR representative. So, be sure to give enough leeway for them to review. This can take up to two weeks of back-and-forth to be approved.