How to Make Lemonade Out of Lemons

by Jeff Bigelow | March 21, 2018

If you have been planning meetings for as little as 1 year or as long as 20, you undoubtedly have come across the dreaded last-minute speaker cancellation. Since this is almost always an “Act of God” (weather related, loss of loved-one, etc.), the speaker is certainly not to be blamed, but if not handled correctly can cause panic and stress to you, the meeting professional. With all of the details you have to deal with on-site, a last-minute speaker cancellation is not one you want to tackle. Rest assured, Mr. or Mrs. Meeting Planner. I am here to tell you how you can take a stressful situation and come out looking like a star in the end!


Star-Making Point #1

When I call you (assuming you booked the speaker through me of course; if not, this blog will self-destruct in 30 seconds) with the unfortunate news, don’t FREAK out... I am here to help solve our problem! (Yes, it’s not just “yours” or “mine” but rather “our” – we are partners in this!) I will not just be calling with the unfortunate news, but rather with solutions to the problem.  I will provide you with 2-3 alternates speaker options, all of whom would be available to fill in at the last minute and be able to speak on the same topic you wanted your original speaker to address.

Star-Making Point #2

This will be important to you and your executives... These alternates will all do it for the same fee you were originally going to pay. It’s kind of the unwritten speaker rule in the industry that if a speaker has to cancel at the last minute, the alternate will always agree to do it for the same rate. What this means is many times you end up getting a more expensive and sometimes better speaker than the one you were supposed to use in the first place. Let me be clear, however, that a speaker’s fee doesn’t dictate how good he/she is in every case but, let’s face it, there’s a reason why one speaker charges $7,500 and the other charges $15,000.

Star-Making Point #3

Your attendees will almost certainly give your replacement speaker great reviews because they realize what a difficult position said speaker was put in and therefore “cut him/her some slack.” It’s like when you are traveling, and you have your flight cancel at the last minute but are then told you can get on a different flight which will get you home around the same time. The alternate flight always ends up being “great” because you are just happy you got on it! Your attendees will just be happy there is someone on stage to speak to them and they weren’t forced to listen to another “industry” speaker!

Star-Making Point #4, #5, and even #6!

Finally, and MOST importantly, when your event is done and you’re ready to start thinking about next year’s speaker, guess what? You don’t have to because all you do is book the speaker you originally wanted! That’s right, you don’t have to watch videos, hold committee meetings, etc. Just email me (insert “booked through me” assumption previously mentioned), tell me to book the speaker and you’re done! That’s a “drop the mic” moment, Mr. or Mrs. Meeting Professional!


There you have it. The perfect recipe for making lemonade out of lemons! Pour yourself a glass and enjoy your day!

Topics: Blog

Written by Jeff Bigelow

Jeff joined SpeakInc in 1995, became Partner in 1996, and with over seventeen years of experience in the industry, still loves what he does. Jeff is a graduate of California State University of Northridge with a B.A. in Radio, Television, Film. At SpeakInc he works both in the corporate market, as well as the association market and is actively involved in the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE). Outside of his time in the office, Jeff can be found relaxing at the nearest beach or swinging the clubs on one of Southern California's amazing golf courses. What brings him the most joy, of course, is spending time with his wife, Denise, and daughter, Faith.
Find me on:

Don't Miss Out!
Get monthly email notifications of our latest articles that include:
  • Keynote Speaker Highlights
  • Conference & Event Planning Tips
  • Free Resources
  • Industry News

Technology Checklist