I was asked recently by a meeting planner for my advice on how to find additional speakers for an event that will "wow" her audience. I am a professional speaker who has delivered over 300 professional-level presentations in my career. I have strong opinions that the speakers sets the tone for an event, and yet too many meetings simply fill the slots without vetting the abilities of the presenters.
The below is a set of tips that I shared with the meeting planner.
Ten Tips For Finding The Right Speaker For Your Event
1. Just because someone is smart or has done something cool does not mean they belong on stage.
2. If you hire speakers, always be seeking ideas for those who can present. Keep a file so you have a list on hand when it comes time to make your selection.
3. Know your budget and be upfront with the speaker. Fee negotiation does not need to be adversarial.
4. If you financially compensate some speakers and ask others to speak for free, be open about your policy.
5. When asking a speaker to discount their regular fee, know what you will offer in return. "Exposure" from the speech alone may or may not actually have value.
6. Invite your speakers to be a partner in the success of your event, not simply to speak and leave . Discover if the speaker plans to participate with your attendees at breaks, meals, happy hours, etc … How will they engage with your audience via social media before, during and after?
7. Ask how many presentations a speaker has given in last two years. Experience matters.
8. Be willing to integrate topics that are not the "same old / same old".
9. How do you want your speaker to be dressed? In today's uber-casual environment you should communicate what the speaker should wear. Have the conversation upfront to avoid being surprised if they are over-dressed or under-dressed.
10. Have an extended conversation with the speaker to understand their personality and make sure there is a connection. If you do not "click" on the phone, follow your gut instinct.
The speaker at an event should look at their participation as a key element to the success of the event. If the speaker is not engaged with advancing the goal of the meeting, then the disconnect will have an impact on the success of the whole event.