A myth in the business world suggests that speakers leave corporate
audiences pumped up and inspired, but hold little lasting value for
organizations. Yet, the rapid expansion of the $120 billion meetings
industry and growth of the speaking profession suggests that the
benefits of hiring a professional speaker are real and pervasive.
Business managers tout the positive, long-lasting impact on
organizational productivity from qualified professional speakers.
Employees, clients and Wall Street alike view professional speakers as a
contributing factor to the long-term success of an organization.
Qualified professional speakers know that the key is leaving audiences
feeling not only more confident and energized, but armed with new tools,
skills and ideas to make an on-going, positive difference in both their
personal and professional lives.
Paid speakers come in many forms. Celebrities, athletes and even
former United States Presidents are paid to speak to corporate
audiences. These people may be good speakers-or not. Professional
speakers (experts who have selected speaking as their career path) are
committed partners in making an event a success. They have the skill set
to research audiences and customize content, to maximize the room
set-up, to make the most of presentation technologies and, most
importantly, to engage an audience.
Traditionally, critics cite the fleeting nature of inspiration as one
strike against some speakers. Some also argue that lessons learned at a
meeting are difficult to apply on the job. However, studies show that
the type of training and continuing education facilitated by
professional speakers impacts the corporate bottom line. Whether it's a
one-time event or a long-term consulting partnership, professional
speakers offer organizations the tools they need to improve corporate or
As someone who has listened to numerous seminars conducted by
professional speakers, the President and CEO of Meeting Professionals
International (MPI) considers himself an objective third party and
qualified critic on the art of professional speaking.
Edward Griffin, Jr., CAE, has been at the helm of MPI for more than
nine years. He attends more than 120 speaker presentations a year. In
his opinion, professional speakers can offer long-lasting impact to
companies and organizations, especially when creating excitement among
employees for a new product launch or a new corporate strategy.
"One value is the boost that professional speakers can often
contribute. When you have an aggressive agenda, professional speakers
can provide momentum that sets the stage for your company's long-term
success," said Griffin, adding one caveat. "But it needs to be the right
speaker, at the right time, on the right subject."
|Jack Richter, president and CEO of Winona National and Savings Bank
in Minnesota, hired professional speaker Roxanne Emmerich, CSP, CMC,
after reading an article that mentioned her in a local paper. "She
helped us define what we are as an organization and what we wanted to
be," says Richter. "She didn't just motivate us, she gave us actual
tools to change." Emmerich, whose programs focus on organizational
change, first spoke to the group in November of 1997, and from that time
the bank has seen a 20 percent growth.
A recent study conducted by the American Society for Training and
Development (ASTD) offers evidence of the benefits of investing in
workforce training. The study shows a correlation between a higher
investment in training and higher net sales per employee, higher gross
profits per employee, and a higher ratio in market-to-book values.
According to ASTD, companies that invest more heavily in workplace
training are more highly valued on Wall Street and their market value is
growing more quickly.
The study, the first of its kind in the performance arena, compared
companies' expenditures on workplace training during 1996 with their
sales and profit performance during the first half of 1997. By looking
at two sub-groups in the study-those companies investing an average of
$900 per employee on learning and those investing an average of $275 per
employee-researchers found that, among 40 publicly traded companies in
the sample, the top group outpaced those in the bottom group by:
- 57% higher net sales per employee
- 37% higher gross profits per employee
- 14% higher ratio in market-to-book values
"ASTD's study makes crystal clear the bottom-line benefits of
investing in your workforce with the type of training professional
speakers provide," said Gorden.
Speaking professionals state that each presentation needs to offer
audience members a solid means of improving the productivity of their
company or organization, rather than just offering "feel good" speeches.
|"Professional speakers definitely need to be catalysts for
improvement and change, and part of being a catalyst means offering
clients strategy for improving their organizations," says Terry
Paulson, Ph.D., CSP, CPAE, a California-based professional speaker
who includes Kodak, Sears, Texaco and Hewlett Packard among his
Paulson, who conducts more than 110 seminars a year, has
come to rely on anecdotes and stories from successful organizations
to strike a cord with corporate audiences and provide a message that
Scott McKain, CSP, CPAE, vividly illustrates how one idea from a
speech can result in increased sales. This Indiana-based professional
speaker gave a customer service presentation to brokers at Merrill Lynch
and, two weeks later, received an e-mail from one of the audience
members telling him an idea from his speech had resulted in a $300,000
|The audience was focused on the big internal issues such as how
to adapt to the boom in online brokering, but McKain's customer
service message reminded them to focus on serving the needs of the
individual client. He spoke to them about how the customer's
experience begins when they pull into the parking lot and ends when
they drive away. One broker took the message to heart and walked his
client, an elderly widow, to her car rather than dismissing her as
she left his office. On the walk out, she gave him the order he had
been working for weeks to get. She conceded that his walking her to
her car convinced her that he cares about her and would take good
care of her money.
Much of the power of a professional speaker comes from the fact that
he or she holds an outside perspective from the company or organization.
"A professional speaker can be a generalist," says McKain. "We see the
ways lots of organizations do things, so we can be a conduit for sharing
successful ideas. Industry experts have the same blinders on as everyone
else in the industry. Why does Saturn hire people from Nordstrom's to
help with customer service?"
Paulson adds that many professional speakers weave motivation into
the mix to impact the message. The best motivational speakers create in
audiences the desire to change, the confidence to act and the tools to
succeed. They are experts in a variety of industries and disciplines who
have the passion and the skills to get ideas across to an audience.
While motivation needs to be rekindled from time to time, he adds,
that does not lessen its impact. "Showers have a temporary impact, but
just because you need to take another one tomorrow does not mean today's
shower was not important."