When planning a corporate event or conference, locking in a dynamic keynote speaker or presenter is one of the most critical tasks. However, the timeline for booking speakers is often overlooked until it becomes a last-minute scramble. So how far in advance should you start the process of securing speakers?

The answer: as early as possible! While timelines can vary based on the speaker’s availability and your specific situation, industry experts recommend initiating your outreach 6-12 months prior to your event date. Here’s a closer look at the ideal booking timeline:

9-12 Months Out For major events expecting large crowds or looking to book highly in-demand, premium speakers, your best chances lie in starting your research and outreach 9-12 months in advance. The most popular keynote speakers have jam-packed schedules that can book up a year or more out.

By starting early, you get first pick before their calendars fill up. It also allows ample time for negotiations on fees, deliverables, traveling logistics, and other contractual details.

6-9 Months Out
If your budget doesn’t allow for grand scale talent fees, focus your 6-9 month booking window on speakers at the mid-range level. These could be subject matter experts, authors, entrepreneurs, or those growing their speaking portfolios.

At this stage, you should identify your top few speaker candidates, inquire about their availability, and request proposal details like fees, topics, and references. Many speakers will be finalizing their schedules in this timeframe.

3-6 Months Out

For those with tight budgets or looking for local/regional speaker talent, booking within the 3-6 month window is acceptable but options become far more limited. Strong communication and flexibility on dates will be required to align with remaining speaker availability.

Under 3 Months While not ideal, there are always speakers willing to fill eleventh-hour demands should you find yourself in a last-minute crunch. However, your options become extremely limited both in terms of quality and affordability this late in the game. Your negotiating leverage also diminishes.

No matter what, avoid waiting until just days or weeks before your event dates to book speakers, as the pickings will be extremely slim. You’ll either miss out completely or have to pay premium “rush” fees for anyone willing to commit on short notice.

By allowing 6-12 months of lead time, you ensure a wide range of speaker talents to consider, ample scheduling flexibility, and the ability to negotiate fair rates with plenty of preparation. Booking speakers is one event task where früher ist besser!