Holding Successful Speaker Events
by Kyanna Holbrook, Speakers Bureau Coordinator
The primary purpose of The John Birch Society’s Speakers Bureau is to grow the organization by providing a tool for members to help bring their friends and contacts into membership. Secondary purposes are to educate attendees and generate local media coverage and subsequent engagements.
Planning a speaker event is hard work, and you might sometimes fall short of getting the word out and making a net profit. Since I began working at the Speakers Bureau, I have seen a couple of volunteer leaders fall short on attendance and break even on their profits. However, I have seen other leaders have strong attendance and make a great profit from their events! I soon realized what differentiated the events that did well from the ones that did not — group effort and ticket sales.
One reason events have succeeded is because of group effort, rather than just one person taking it all on. When there is a group effort, a lot can be accomplished! We encourage chapters to find three or four people who can help take charge of events. We suggest having the following positions: (1) chairman (required), (2) publicity chairman, (3) ad sales chairman, and (4) ticket sales chairman. You can double up on a couple of these positions and specific responsibilities. These officers should become very proficient through repeated experience. At minimum, the top two positions of a speaker committee must be held by JBS members, but beyond this, nonmembers can participate.
Many leaders think holding events for free will draw in more people and attract more attention. Unfortunately, many competing events are also free. Furthermore, how many people do you see taking action based solely on the information they receive? Not many. When people pay for an event, they are putting their money toward making it worthwhile for them.
Recently, a new volunteer leader decided to host a speaker and sold tickets for $5 in advance, and $10 at the door. This event ended up having more people pay at the door, and because of this, the leader and his chapter made their money back — and more — just because they sold tickets. This leader made more money than what he paid to host the speaker — allowing him to use the extra money for future events — and he also identified prospective members.
Another leader was highly encouraged to have pre-ticket-sale registration, and he used a website to help sort the registration information. As with the previous event, he charged a lower amount in advance and more at the door. This leader not only made a net profit, but he actually knew roughly how many people would attend instead of hoping that people would show up and hopefully fund the event through donations.
You should have four goals in mind when sponsoring a speaker: (1) to attract and recruit new people into the Society, (2) to sell literature, (3) to educate and persuade, and (4) to attract positive media attention. If your event accomplishes these goals, you are on the right track.
To help you have a successful event with one of our speakers, we will provide you with a how-to manual, easy-to-use templates for promotional material (flyer, tickets, and program), and a biography of the speaker. If you want to book a speaker, please go to JBS.org/speakers to check out our speaker options, or see this month’s featured speakers on the back of the Bulletin. Once you and your chapter know which speaker you would like to host, email email@example.com or call 1-920-749-3780 to get more information on how to move forward.
We look forward to working with you on creating organization in your area and educating those near you!