This article was originally published by Forbes.
When scoping a consulting project, having insights into the client’s goals, budget, and expectations before you begin the conversation can be invaluable. Asking the client to fill out a pre-survey can provide exactly this kind of preliminary information in advance of your scoping call.
When a client reaches out for a potential speaking engagement, I send a personalized email expressing excitement about the possibility of working together, remark on a specific aspect of what they’ve shared thus far, and share a link to my pre-survey.
On my webpage that houses the survey, I provide additional context and encouragement:
Thank you for reaching out. I'm thrilled to hear from you. Please help me get to know you better by taking a few minutes to fill out this survey.
Any time you can provide additional information, please share it, but don't feel like you have to have it all figured out. This is the starting point of conversation to give me a sense of what you're looking for in working together.
I use an informal approach in the pre-frame and the survey itself, both because that’s my communication style and because I want the client to feel like this a personal connection, not a robot asking them to complete a task.
The survey is broken into three sections. The first provides me basic contextual information including organization name, contact info etc.
In the second section, entitled “Information on Our Work Together”, I include a note, “Details still coming together on your end? No problem. Write what you can here and we will work together on the rest.”
In what city and state will the event be held?
What are your goals for our work together?
No need to stress here, we will go deeper into this together!
I’ve gotten everything from “dynamic, non-traditional keynote on negotiation tactics” to “a team building and culture setting workshop.”
What is your speaker/facilitator budget for this portion of the programming?
Talk about a relevant piece of information! It’s helpful me to start to consider how I can support their goals and ensure my proposal is aligned their budget.
I take on a limited number of pro-bono clients a year, so sometimes I’ll consider a project if it aligns clearly with my benchmarks for philanthropy.
Is this organization a non-profit? If so, what is its annual operating budget?
Again, this helps me decide whether a client fits my philanthropy benchmarks.
Will there be a professional photographer and/or videographer at the event?
If the client asks me to present on new content or if I’m looking to create a new video, having a professional videographer record the event can be a great value to me. (Full disclosure: I have been burned by “professional” footage that was virtually unusable.)
How did you hear about Lelia?
This is helpful fodder for the initial conversation and reminds me if I’ve met the contact person previously.
Also, since I work with speakers bureaus, this question is ethically important to ask. If a client was first introduced to me through a gig booked by a speakers bureau, then this new gig will be considered “spin business”, and I’ll owe my bureau a commission.
The next section focuses on, “Event Information”
What kind of programming would you like me to provide?
I’ve found that when I let clients pick from the list below without any explanation, they tend to click all the options, which isn’t terribly helpful to me. I’ve recently added the quick explanations below, which I hope will help clarify how the kinds of programs I offer differ from one another.
Keynote or speech - Up to one hour or content, typically for a special event or conference
Workshop or training - Often a conference breakout session or part of professional development
Retreat - An in-depth exploration of a specific content area
Consulting - Ongoing support
Other - You tell me!
Do you have date(s) in mind for the event?
I confirm my availability before jumping on the call.
How many participants do you expect?
Since engagements can range from a dozen senior staff at a company to hundreds in professional associations, this is helpful for me to scope the project.
Who are you expecting to attend the event (lawyers, working parents, etc.)?
With this information, I can begin to identify past speaking engagements to reference on the scoping call and demonstrate credibility.
If this is a public event, how will it be promoted?
This can give me a sense of how likely the event is to be successful. Does the client have a built-in audience? Have they hosted this event before?
What is your ideal length of time for the program you're requesting from Lelia?
I’ve recently rewritten this question to clarify that I don’t necessarily need to know that this is a multi-day conference. I want to know exactly how long you’d like me to present.
Anything else you would like me to know?
People often share helpful insights here, which have ranged from a very informal group telling me, “We’re super flexible and just excited to talk more about what this could look like” to a military group who told me that all presentation materials would have to be sent up the chain of command well in advance, and I would need to submit to a background check.
This survey provides two primary functions. First, it gives me important context for the event type and allows me to begin to identify the questions I want to focus on for the scoping call.
Second, it demonstrates a level of commitment and follow-through from the client. Sometimes, a client is interested in having me speak, but they don’t yet have an event planned or basic logistical details. It’s valuable to know that before I jump on a call.
This pre-survey tool can save you significant time, help ensure your fee is in line with client expectations, and supported you in tracking relevant event details over time.