Yikes

Yikes! You have just been put in charge of developing a program for your next corporate function. Perhaps it’s a trade show. Perhaps it’s a conference. It might be a company meeting or a product launch. Whatever the event, your program will stand or fall on

– The audience
– The purpose of the meeting
– The topics of the sessions
– The presenters or speakers

The audience and the purpose of the meeting will determine the topics, and all three will determine who your speakers should be.

“But David, shouldn’t we hire the biggest name possible – the speaker with the biggest ‘star appeal’?”

Not necessarily. If the main purpose of your speaker is to draw attendance, then you want the biggest name possible for one of your slots – a Jerry Seinfeld or Jay Leno or Nicole Kidman or maybe an ex-President.

However, you will still need many other speakers. Star appeal is a powerful factor, but there are more important factors:

How well does he or she know the topic you need addressed? Often a respected but decidedly “unfamous” expert is a better pick than someone out of Hollywood. You can learn a lot about speakers by reviewing their biographies online. As an example, here is As an example, here is the online bio of Dorothy Hamil.

How well can the speaker learn to understand your audience? This is important, since the speaker might already have addressed a similar audience. Or he might be willing to take the time to understand who your audience is and what their experiences have been. Or maybe not. A key question to ask…”Will you arrive early enough to be briefed about what has already transpired at our event, so that you can work it into your speech?” Then write it into the speaker’s contract.

How well does the speaker speak? This is important because the most famous person who has just discovered the cure for cancer or won a dozen gold medals at the Olympics might not be able to utter an intelligible word. Make sure the famous speaker or recognized expert can really speak well. Ask to see a real video at a real speaking engagement. Even better, take the speaker for a test drive. Ask to attend an upcoming speaking engagement.

What is the speaker’s speaking style? Not every speaker matches your audience. Some audiences and some topics call for an energetic motivational style. Others call for a more informative style. Some audiences will react better to a laid-back style. To be sure, boring is out, no matter what the audience, but there are different styles that can engage an audience, but not all of them will work with every audience.

Ask for references you can call…references with similar audience characteristics. Then make the call and ask what went well and what could have been improved. If something did not go well, it could be a sign that the speaker is not ideal, or it could be an indication of something you need to do to make sure she or he is ideal.

Is the speaker willing to provide an outline of the speech ahead of time? It is important for you to know what the speaker will cover and to make suggestions if necessary. It’s your program and you know what needs to be covered.

Is the speaker willing to go the extra mile? Sometimes the best speaker is the one who will commit to staying an hour after the event to answer questions from shy participants or from those with long-winded or multi-part questions. Or a speaker, especially one who is already well-known, can add value by greeting people as they enter the hall. Or perhaps they can also add some excitement to a spouses’ program.

Of course, budget is always important. If you need to pay for a dozen speakers with a limited budget, don’t try to book Dr. Phil for one of your slots. You can do a quick search for speakers by fee range at All American Speakers Bureau to start your budget planning.

A speakers bureau can help you navigate many of these issues, both more quickly and more effectively than you can yourself. Once you make known your concerns and questions, the speakers bureau can quickly pull out those speakers most likely to fit your needs and respond to your demands.

Choosing the right speaker is critical, if you want your audience to walk away feeling that they have gained something from the event. Take the time to ask the right questions and hire the right speaker.

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