I wish I would have known to keep a list of helpful hints earlier in my career.
I overvalued my knowledge and often could not find the great tips when I went looking. The following list covers sage speaker advice learned by several planners, through the school of hard knocks.
I encourage you to save this list and do what I do, R&D (research and duplicate), but make it your own. Remember: people attend conferences for networking and education.
1. Know the direct benefit of hiring a (pre-determined, specific to your needs) speaker through a bureau, versus direct. You have already decided your speaker in advance, however did you qualify the bureau representing the speaker you want?
Also, be sure to ask if there are multiple bureaus representing this speaker and if they can book the speaker on the same day or a given said span of dates.
[Related Content: Why Would I Use a Speakers' Bureau?]
It is important to know (for many obvious reasons) if the speaker is double-booked in the same city of your event/meeting.
2. Set up an appointment to talk with before signing a contract with a speaker. This is the time to review and state your expectations prior to the event.
A detailed pre-event call to review A/V; green room; attire (colors, no chunky necklaces) could be put in the contact. Be sure your major meeting stakeholder(s) fully supports and embraces the speaker’s message. If this doesn’t happen, the experience, information shared and expense will bring little return (if any).
3. Before signing the contract, figure out expenses in total. Thoroughly read the contract, does it mention 1st class travel or list a companion to accompany?
4. Ask for references and check on them.
5. Assign someone to act as a “speaker ambassador”; to meet and greet the speaker on the day of the event, assist him or her with AV, presentation requirements, last minute requests, etc. This will make your speaker feel welcome and better their odds of success.
6. Will you allow the speaker sell books and products? Will it be from a table in the back of the room or from the stage? Clarify in advance, will the books then be autographed?
7. Ask the keynote speaker about doing a breakout after the keynote. Ask for complimentary signed copies of the book.
Is the speaker available for a Meet and Greet with VIPs?
8. To select the right speaker, match the speaker to the content and objectives.
Look for subject matter experts for content delivery. Does the speaker’s topic fit your audience profile? Start with goals and objectives of the educational program then seek to find the subject matter expert speaker that fits the topic.
9. Participants learn more when the sessions are interactive. People like to be entertained—BUT ENTERTAINED while still walking away with information—the world is soooo serious and so are many of the things we need to discuss during meetings.
Whatever the presentation is about it should have some sort of entertainment level.
Be open to your speaker wanting to engage with your group and be involved in the event/meeting. This is an added benefit the speaker is providing ... so he/she maybe be better prepared intuitively to fulfill the meeting objectives.
This will also help the speaker respond to attendees’ needs and answer questions.
10. Speaker agreements should include everything you expect of the speaker: dates/times, additional events participation, due dates, travel, expense reimbursement, etc. This seems so simple but if you don’t have it in the contract it could cause miscommunications and worst case legal issues.
Contract needs to be very specific regarding expectation—expenses covered; arrival and rehearsal time; meet and greet times and numbers; any “handlers” and their expenses.
11. Be clear on expectations of the speaker for pre- and post-extension of the education session. Think about what additional content you may find beneficial, such as blog and social media posts, articles, a meet and greet or whatever else you can think of that could add to your attendees’ learning. Most speakers are happy to help.
12. Have a speaker-ready room.
13. Send a car to pick up the speaker.
14. Consider speaker management software, which can make your life so much easier.
How do you find a great speaker? Personal referrals are a good way, as you know the referrer and their standards. A speakers’ bureau is another excellent resource.
Bureaus can connect you with the right person and help you quickly find a replacement if a booked speaker must cancel on short notice.
An Additional Note: Professional Speakers Require to Be Paid
From the discussions I’ve had with many of you, it is apparent that both the meeting and event professional and the speaker both like to do this dance.
Meeting and event professionals who sell exposure to the “right audience” in return for a freebie, need to value the speaker’s time, knowledge and professionalism.
Speakers who offer their services for free are equally to blame.
The end result is usually a bad experience for the participant.
[Related Content: A 'Great Speaker' May Not Be Great for All]
The professional speaker puts effort in their talk, spends time researching the audience and the subject and is deeply committed to the success of the session.
This cannot come for free.
If a speaker does not charge a fee, I would be very skeptical of hiring them.
I would question not only what I can expect from their talk, but is the speaker’s expectations of my group and its ability to deliver, reasonable?
Just need a place to start? The National Speakers Association (NSA) is a collective of more than 3,400+ members whose skills, expertise and experience power the most recognized and respected professional speakers organization in the industry.
NSA local chapters are located throughout the United States. You can connect and learn with speakers in your area. Find a chapter in your area and plan to attend.
Editor’s Note: The views expressed by contributing bloggers are their own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Meetings Today or its parent company.
Any products or services noted are for reference and do not constitute an endorsement.
Posted by Lynne Wellish
Lynne Wellish, CMP, CHSE, CHO is an award-winning hospitality industry trainer and speaker.
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