When Choosing A Speaker
Patricia Fripp, CSP, CPAE
You are planning your company's next meeting and you
want everything to be perfect. You've got a location, theme and date. The only thing left
is to hire the speaker. Where do you turn? How do you know what kind of speaker is best
for your meeting?
Here's a checklist:
Do your homework. Many organizations and associations keep a data
base on speakers -- who is good, who is not, who is reliable, who cancels at the last
minute, and other details. See if your group has one. If you had a speaker last year you
loved, use him or her as a resource to recommend someone who will be a good fit for your
Star? Or partner? Don't assume that only a celebrity will do.
Consider your reasons for having a speaker. Is it to attract more people to the meeting?
Is it to motivate the sales force to go out and work harder? Is it to bring information
that the audience could not get elsewhere? Or is it to start the meeting off with a bang
so that everyone is in a receptive mood for the real working sessions? If you think a 'Big
Name' is necessary to attract the numbers you want, the investment may be worth it.
Otherwise, you may want to consider using two more moderately priced speakers who will
adapt their presentation to your group and even show up at the cocktail party to meet the
- Communicate your needs clearly. A common mistake in choosing a
speaker is not being clear about your expectations and needs. Some meeting planners feel
nervous about giving instructions to a celebrity, but whether you are paying $2,000 or
$20,000, the speaker is there to do a job for you. The clearer you are about what you
expect, who is in the audience, and what previous meetings have taught you, the easier it
is for the speaker to do a good job and the happier you will be.
Brief your speaker. Don't assume he or she knows all about your
organization or industry. Send information about your company, no matter how well known it
is. Too much background is better than not enough. Julia Carey, Employee Communications
and Customer Service Manager for the Meredith Corporation, says, "If we are bringing
in an outside speaker, I make sure I provide that person with enough information about the
company to help him or her be successful. They need to know about our company culture, our
key players, and our businesses when they talk with our people. I provide company
publications and a write-up about the 'mood' of the company."
Treat the speaker like an attendee. Make sure your speakers get
all the advance mailings and information kits the attendees do so they know who else is
speaking and if their time slot has been changed (but no one remembered to tell them.)
When your speakers arrive, make sure they have a complete itinerary and phone numbers of
contacts. This way, you and they will have a restful night. Suggest they call you as soon
as they check into their hotel. I make a habit of this and am amazed how often my
clients tell me I am the first one who has even done it!
Schedule wisely. Putting the right speakers in the wrong time
slots makes them the wrong speakers. Don't schedule an economist or someone with highly
technical information just before lunch or after dinner when everyone tends to be tired.
Use them in the morning when the audience is fresh. A good rule of thumb is the later in
the day, the lighter the content.
|Award-winning speaker and in-demand speech coach,
Patricia Fripp, CSP, CPAE offers fresh, usable ideas on getting, keeping
and deserving customers. "Meetings and Conventions" magazine calls
Patricia "one of the country's 10 most electrifying speakers."
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