When you need to bring in a speaker for your company or association event, you have two choices on the kind of presenter to hire: An expert who speaks or an expert speaker. While those two terms may seem similar, there’s actually a big difference.

An expert who speaks has real-life experience in relation to their topic. Because of this insider knowledge, they can confidently say, “I’ve done this and I’ll show you how to do it too.” In contrast, an expert speaker may have done research on their topic and may have a lot of book smarts, but they can’t offer a personal perspective. Even though the expert speaker is knowledgeable and perhaps eloquent, their main focus is “I’ve read about this.”

In most cases, hiring an expert who speaks is preferable to hiring an expert speaker because an expert who speaks will add power and focus to the event as they share their real-life experiences and compelling content. Additionally, because they’re so personally involved in their topic, they often stay-up-to-date on the current research, which means your attendees will get the best advice possible.

Since hiring the wrong speaker can cripple your event, here are a few steps to take to ensure you make the best decision possible.

Your Expert is Waiting

Experts come in all flavors: Some speak, some are authors, some are CEOs or entrepreneurs, some have navigated a major life or business challenge, etc. However, just because someone calls him or herself an expert doesn’t mean that person is one. The title of “expert” is never self-proclaimed. Rather, it’s a descriptor bestowed on a person from outsiders. So always ask around and find out what others are really saying about a particular speaker you’re considering.

The expert who speaks that you want to hire will have good presentation and communication skills, provide compelling content, and share real-life experiences. When you make a conscious decision to hire an expert who speaks rather than an expert speaker, you’ll be bringing in someone who can engage your audience and carry the message with enough force to allow for real improvement in your attendees’ lives.

Joe Heaps and Dave Reed own eSpeakers.com, a 14-year-old technology and marketing company providing the speaking industry with the tools to do business online. Their newest product, eSpeakers Marketplace, launches summer 2013 and will be the largest directory of professional presenters available online. For more information, visit marketplace.espeakers.com.