What to Consider When Booking a Big-Name Headline Speaker

Back of speaker head with audience, microphone picture in bottom left.

Booking a big-name speaker to headline your event can be both exciting and complex. Headline speakers are often high-profile, expensive, and sometimes extremely famous. With that comes logistical, managerial, and budgetary concerns that must be solved efficiently to ensure a smooth event.  

We’ve put together this resource to outline everything you need to consider for the process of booking a headline name from start to finish to ensure the best possible experience for all involved.  

Should I book a Headline Speaker Directly or Through a Bureau? 

Before deciding who, you want to book for your event, you must decide the method you want to book through. Keynote speakers are represented through speaker bureaus. These bureaus, such as Leading Authorities, handle all logistical concerns prior to the event, and will often be on-site during the event to make sure things run smoothly. Bureaus do the legwork so you can focus on other aspects of putting on a memorable event. Not all speakers are managed through bureaus, but going directly to a speaker’s team is often a more intensive process for you and your team than partnering with a bureau.  

Booking through a bureau means collaborating with dedicated programme consultants who share customised speaker recommendations based on your needs and handle all logistical tasks required to book that speaker and get them on stage for the big day.  

Celebrity Names vs. Industry Names 

Another thing to keep in mind is the difference between celebrity speakers and industry-specific speakers. Celebrity speakers, such as Oprah or a former President, are likely to test the limits of your budget just to book them, and that’s before factoring additional costs. Their speaking fees are often much higher, and they may require more incentive to say yes – a good offer, perks, nice accommodation, etc.  

Often, there are several speakers that are big names in your specific industry. At Leading Authorities, we work with several speakers who fit an industry-specific want for a headliner. For example, Sarah Robb O’Hagan, is the CEO of Exos and previously served in executive positions at Gatorade, Nike, & Virgin Group. She is the perfect speaker for groups across any industry looking for insights on business growth, innovation, and teamwork, and her fierce tenacity makes her an inspiring watch.  

Booking an industry leader over a celebrity headliner may be more beneficial for your event if you’re looking for someone who can customise their keynote and relate more closely to your audience. one thing to keep in mind is that, while it’s always tempting to book a global household name to drum up buzz for your event, there are often more budget-friendly options who are known to get rave reviews and could potential be a better fit for your meeting.  

Prioritising the Correct Things 

What are the goals of your event? Who is your audience and what would they like to see? How high-profile do you want your headliner to be? What is your budget for the headliner and who fits within that budget? Questions like these are critical to understand as you work on setting the priorities for your event.  

As mentioned, celebrity speakers break the bank, their schedules are packed, and they often require additional incentives to close the deal. If you want to book a celebrity headliner speaker, your budget should reflect that. You may have to cut down on other costs, such as corporate vendors, food, refreshments, worker compensation, location, and event swag – among other things. The big picture: prioritise correctly from the beginning to avoid complications in the process.  

Logistics and Factors to Keep in Mind  

This next section will more thoroughly outline some factors you must consider when booking your headliner. While this is not a complete list of factors, these are some of the most prominent and complex. Remember, when you work with a speaker’s bureau, such as Leading Authorities, much of this is handled directly through them.  

Booking Timeline:  

Booking a speaker, especially one that is famous, can sometimes be an extended process. As mentioned, headliners often have packed schedules. Booking them may need to be done 6 months, to a year in advance – and maybe earlier depending on the situation. It’s important to keep this in mind to ensure you can book your first-choice speaker for your event.  


Your budget will be your lifeline. Lay every expense out, even the small ones that seem insignificant. In general, the largest expenses will be the speaker compensation, location fees, and travel/accommodation costs for the speaker – if needed. Each event is unique, and unexpected expenses may pop up. Our advice is to set aside part of your budget for unforeseen circumstances that could occur in the lead up to, or on the day of, the event. This will allow for a smoother event and not cause unnecessary panic. 

How Long Will the Event Be?  

Most headliners speak for about an hour, give or take. If your event is longer than this, what will you do to fill out the rest of the agenda? Are you booking more than one speaker? If so, how does this fit into your budget? Answer these questions before choosing your headliner.  


If your event is far away from where your headliner lives or works, you’ll more than likely need to book a hotel and manage travel costs and logistics for your speaker. Think about whether your budget allows for these costs or if it would be more economical to seek out a local speaker.  

Speaker Requests on the Day of the Event: 

Unexpected things happen all the time. A speaker may require something on the day of the event that could be considered an unexpected cost. Plan for this and be prepared for unexpected challenges or expenses.  

Will There be a Q&A or Other Asks from the Speaker? 

Do you want your speaker to answer questions, sign books, or stick around to dine with attendees? If so, ensure you book a speaker who is open and interested in these types of add-ons, and that the specifics are outlined in the contract. This may also increase their fee due to the added responsibilities beyond the keynote.  

The Big Picture 

Booking a headliner can be a seamless process with the proper preparation and research. Know your priorities, audience, and capabilities well and your event will be that much easier to manage and plan. At Leading Authorities, we work with you to bring the big names to your stage to make your event unforgettable and leave your audience wanting more.  

Book a Speaker with Leading Authorities 

Looking for a keynote speaker who’s the perfect fit for your agenda?

 Contact us to get started!  

  • Give us a call at +44 20 3038 4689.  

  • Email us at Contact@lauthorities.com  

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