The thought of booking a national speaker or author, for many career centers, seems completely out of reach. With budgets being tight, getting a quality subject matter expert can appear prohibitive. But, in reality, there are several ways that you can mitigate the costs – sometimes, entirely.

As a national speaker who works with schools all the time, I’ve compiled some suggestions for you that have worked for me and the schools I work with. Although these suggestions may be more involved than just writing a check, like many big schools can do, the benefits are huge.

The benefits of having a national speaker or author at a career center event include:

  • better attended events
  • significant increase in the number of unique visits to your center
  • bigger impact on the levels motivation and results in job search

1. Co-sponsor an Event with Student Activities

Depending on how your school is organized, your Student Activities office is going to have a small portion of their budget allocated to hiring outside speakers. Oh, and that “small” budget allocation is probably more than enough to help you mitigate the cost of a speaking. Collaborating with Student Activities try to find a way to appeal to their needs. Though you may want the speaker for their involvement with career related issues, SAO may want to appeal to trends in the student population. If you can downplay the career aspect of the speaker and upplay the other aspects, your SAO office may be more willing to partner with you. For example, I speak on helping job seekers use social media…you might pitch that as… “Wow, there’s this really great social media speaker!”

2. Find a Local business to sponsor you

When USC wanted to have me give a talk on campus, they weren’t prepared for to pay a speaker’s fee. So they worked with a local credit union to fund parts of the event. This was great community exposure for the bank, who can write the expense off at the end of the year. Plus it makes them look like heroes. USC benefited by having a national author come in, and they packed the room to capacity.

Credit unions are a great place to start when looking for sponsors. Any business that values community involvement will have some money allocated each year, money that you are eligible for. If one sponsor isn’t enough, consider breaking your budget into chunks and doling them out.

In exchange, most sponsors will only ask for their logo to appear somewhere in the event. At USC, it was on my title slide and that was it.

3. Offer to Pitch the Speaker to the Media

Speakers want, no, need exposure. And while we’re on the topic of media exposure, I’m sure your career center would want some too. For speakers, it helps their business grow when they can appear on the news as an expert in their field. For your center, it drives enrollment and interest in your services. Offering to help a speaker gain exposure through their talk on your campus is a win-win.

I agreed to speak for a reduced fee at Portland Community College this year because the coordinator got a local reporter to interview me about my book. It would have cost me much more than my discount to hire a PR firm who can only promise a chance of media exposure. The interview helped me sell books and I can keep the footage for my press kit.

4. Organize a Train-the-Trainer with Your Consortium

Most speakers will charge between $5,000 $10,000 for half-day trainings at professional associations. Most consortiums have between 15-40 members (that’s what makes it a consortium!). For a single institution, $5,000 can be a steep fee. But when 20 members pay only $250 for professional development, then the cost of the learning is cheap. Especially if you can add CEU credits to the event.

If you’re a member of a consortium, your job will be to call each member and get their buy-in. Typically, a consortium member would have to take initiative in such an event. I was speaking with a school in Iowa who wasn’t able to afford my fee. So they contacted all 30 members of their career professional’s consortium and got 20 schools to agree to share the fee. It took him a week to set it up, but he managed to organize a great event for himself and his colleagues.

Since training is only a half-day, and the speaker is getting a proper fee, why not ask them to stick around for a quick afternoon keynote with your students– at a steep discount of course. Give them an energy drink if they’re tired!

5. Convince Your President You Need a Senior Day

Part of the reason why you may be having trouble getting budget for a speaker is because you might not have an annual speaking event which requires that level of cash, let’s call it a Senior Day. A Senior Day is a full Saturday in January or February adorned with national career speakers, workshops, resume writing and fire tossing. The key is that it happens every year so that the budget is simply maintained.

The hard part, as I’m sure you’ve picked up on, is starting an annual Senior Day in the first place. From my experience, it would seem that approval for such a shindig would have to come from high-up, like the president of the college. And what does the president of the college care about? Fund raising! Your Senior Day could have big results for the college as it represents a major benchmark in the institution’s success, especially when you can measure improvements in hiring and who recruits from your university.

If schools are often ranked by how well their students place jobs, and rankings affect how much money the school can charge for tuition, and better job programs help the president raise even more money from alumni, then I think you have a clincher.

Download the rest

To get the remaining 5, visit my speaking page.