Finding me on the Web

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Speaker Hiring Nightmares

I found this article and thought that a lot of event coordinators could use this information. I was going to reword it and change the content to fit any event type and make it my own experiences but I think he did an effective job of making his point. So here it is along with his info because if you read this and decide “wow! I want to hire the guy who wrote that article”…it wouldn’t be right for me to keep you from using him instead of me. As far as I am concerned though, I am very interactive with the youth I speak to and like to hang with them if time is made available to do so. I am not the type to “hide in my cabin”. Also if you are a non Church oriented event planner please read my article: “Does my faith scare you?”

Now for Keith Deltano’s article:

“Christian Youth Speaker Horror Stories and How To Avoid Them”

Working With Youth Speakers

I just spent twenty minutes on a conference call assuring the event coordinators that I would not contribute to their “speaker horror stories” portfolio. The folks that are bringing me in to do a large regional rally (expecting 3000 teens) were suffering form “speaker paranoia”. They wanted to make sure I was not going to do some of the negative things “the previous speaker” did. “Speaker Paranoia” is directly related to a previous bad experience with a former speaker. I call these phenomena, “Youth Speaker Horror Stories’. The tragedy is that most of these misadventures could be avoided with clear communication prior to the event. Not all the horror stories I hear are the speakers fault. Let’s look at some of the most common missteps and how they can be avoided.

“The last speaker went fifteen minutes over his time” I hear this a lot. My response is, “Did you tell him his time? Did you make sure he understood it was important?” If you tell a speaker he has “around an hour” then don’t be surprised if he goes 69 minutes. “Around” is a subjective term. It’s much better to say, “You have 60 minutes form the end of the intro.” Also, remember that speakers travel form culture to culture. I do some events where the sponsor and promoter had no time requirements and some where I’m handed an itinerary that is broken down in seconds. You have to make clear what your expectations are. When things get off schedule (as they often will at youth events) you must communicate specific adjustments to the speaker. You told him a week ago he had an hour, but half way through your program, you are thirty minutes behind schedule and you can’t go over because the parent/bus drivers will get upset. You’ve figured out how much to shave off each speaker/band in order to get back on track. So you ask you speaker to “shave a little off” his presentation. He takes five minute off, you needed fifteen. In his mind he has helped you by doing what you asked. In your mind, “he went over”. Be very clear with time expectations. Most speakers will not go over. Another very simple solution is to have a volunteer with time cards in the front row. The large placards go from five minutes to 0. This way the speaker gets a five minute warning. When the last card comes up, he needs to wrap up.

“The last youth speaker we had ran up his expenses.” Once again (you will notice a theme here) did you make your expectations clear? Did you use a contract and did that contract spell out what expenses your organization covers? I do not require a rental car, strawberries in the green room, a five star hotel or jelly beans with all the green ones picked out. But I’ve heard stories. So it’s best to ask up front. Travel reimbursement can lead to “horror stories”. I book my own tickets and have the host reimburse me. From what I understand, this is a common approach. Why won’t most speakers let you buy the tickets for them, hence giving you more control over price? The answer has to do with the way we live. It’s a rather nomadic and complicated lifestyle that often requires a last minute change of plans. We string cities and tours together. Our calendars change. If you book your youth speaker a round trip ticket form his home city and he books a show the day before yours, the money you spent has been wasted because he now needs a ticket form the city he will be in, not the city he lives. If you are nervous about how much the ticket will cost, ask your speaker to put a ceiling on it. For those on a tight budget or concerned about flight costs, I put into my contract, “Freedom Entertainment (that’s me) will book round trip airfare and will invoice host for reimbursement, ticket costs will not exceed 300.00 (in this example)”

“The last youth speaker we had did/did not do an alter call” Did you make your expectations clear? This is not something that you put on a contract; this is something that you discuss. I have served youth by working with many different Christian denominations. For some of the organizations that hire me, an alter call is a weekly event, while others are uncomfortable with alter calls. I know that now. But I didn’t know that when I first started touring nationally. I thought it was a “given” that I would do an alter call. Unfortunately, on this one, I contributed to the “horror stories” portfolio. If you expect your speaker to do an alter call, share that with him and if you do not want the speaker to do an alter call, share that with him also, preferably before the week of the event.

“The last youth speaker hid in his cabin between presentations” Like the above, this is something that should be discussed. Some youth speakers view their job as speaking and that’s it. So if they do a great job speaking multiple times form stage during a camp or retreat, in their mind they are doing a great job. If you expect your youth speaker to eat with the kids, play the games, and make themselves available during “off stage” times, you have to let them know…before you sign the contract. This is the way I roll at camp; I hang out with the kids and often teach apologetics between touch football games. Once a year I come home from youth camp injured, and I’ve promised my wife, no more “touch” (it always ends up being tackle) football. I’m conformable with this type of intensive ministry. Some very gifted youth speakers aren’t. If you let them know you expect them to be “available all weekend”, they can decline gracefully. If you don’t let them know, you end up with a “horror story”.

You should be able to focus your energies on building a life changing Christ centered event. Worrying about what your speaker may your may not do will not be a problem if you communicate expectations in a clear and specific manner. Youth speakers are youth speakers because they feel called by Christ to serve youth. Help them serve Christ and the teens they feel called to minister to by making your expectations obvious prior to the day of the event.


Keith Deltano is a Christian Comedian and youth speaker that uses comedy to promote sexual abstinence, Christian apologetics, drug/dept free living, healthy marriages and a lack of conformity to typical American “Group Think”. He is one of the most effective Christian Youth Speakers touring today. Please go to for video clips,info and bio.



Thank you for reading this article! I hope it has helped you in some way.


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This article was updated on 12/18/2010

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We took offline a while back and now as well in order to post a brand new version of the site, but have decided to improve on some things before putting it online again. In the meantime we are launching the Blog we promised to get started and are using this as a means to get some info online for you to access. Shaun will be posting info as he can, but will be travelling heavily next week and has limited time this week. Please be patient if you cannot find what you are looking for and send any questions to – Thank you so much!