Have you ever booked a speaker who was absolutely perfect for your meeting or conference? You know, the one who is easy to work with before the event, who arrives well ahead of your event to save you the stress of wondering where he is, who captures your attendees’ attention from the first moment and holds them on the edge of their seats until the end, and who joyfully greets every last person who lines up after the session. The perfect speaker is also the one who continues to impress you by sending an invoice that shows her necessary expenses for your event were kept to a minimum. And most importantly: the perfect speaker leaves you, the meeting organizer, looking like a hero! loa toa 10w
The names and faces of a couple of your all-time favorite speakers are probably coming to mind right now. These are speakers who were a pleasure to work with from start to finish, and who allowed you to focus on the 101 other ingredients of a successful event because you trusted that the speakers were on their game.
Okay, enough reminiscing. The question now is, how do you go about finding him or her for your next event? Is it purely a matter of chance that you make the magical selection or can you purposely find the “home run” speaker for your next event?
As long as humans are involved, there is hardly a 100% guarantee with anything. But are six keys that, if heeded, will come very close to guaranteeing that you’ll close your next event saying, “Wow! That speaker was perfect!”
So let’s get to it…
- Don’t be fooled by thinking that the most expensive speaker you can afford is the best speaker for your event.
Since the fees of most speakers and entertainers are set based on the law of supply and demand, it is a common and relatively safe assumption that the more you spend, the better the quality of your special guest. At the same time, it is important to look at your overall situation and be open to speakers who have fees less than your maximum budget. If you have $10,000 to spend on speakers, don’t completely overlook speakers in the $5,000 range. You might find that the speaker with the perfect combination of expertise and style for your unique event objectives is in that lower range, and then you can allocate some of the money you saved to other components of your event.
- Have at least a 15-minute phone conversation with your #1 candidate before signing a contract. If at all possible, arrange a call with your top 2-3 candidates.
You may already be an advocate of having calls with your speaker candidates, or maybe you feel it is just too much of a hassle to coordinate phone calls with speakers and 10 committee members. If you’re looking for an “edge” in your quest for the perfect speaker, though, the pre-selection phone call is one of the best evaluation tools t here is. Since most speakers offer a variety of presentations, it’s virtually impossible for a short demo video to feature every available topic and every kind of event a speaker is capable of addressing. A phone call will allow you to express your event objectives to the speaker, and the speaker can then respond by sharing what he or she can offer to help you meet those objectives. After the call, you and your team should know with some certainty that “yes, this is exactly what we need” or “no, that’s just not the right fit.”
- For your top 2-3 speaker candidates, request 2-4 references from meeting planners who have hired those speakers in the past.
Reviewing some meeting planner testimonials, or better yet, speaking to those who have previously hired your speaker candidates, gives you the chance to hear from others who have been in your exact position and who are familiar with the same pressures you face. This is an opportunity for you to find out if a speaker is friendly, if she does her research to understand your audience, if he is dynamic on stage, if her presentation created a lasting impact with their audience, and other key items that you will want to know. Testimonials, combined with the other evaluation tools recommended in this article, will put you well on your way to securing an awesome speaker for your event.
- Always keep your audience in mind when selecting a speaker. What do they want? Don’t just book the speaker who is your personal favorite.
This sounds obvious, but when you’re the one investing your time to review speaker materials, it can be easy to make the mistake of choosing the speakers your like instead of the speakers who would be best for your audience. Does this really happen? I’ve heard from disappointed audience members who have attended such events. Booking speakers and entertainers is difficult because much like we all have different tastes in music, and we all have our own preferences in who we want to watch or listen to. And short of allowing your attendees to vote on speaker candidates, there is no exact science in making the right choice. Pay attention to your meeting evaluation surveys and it’s likely that the description of the perfect speaker candidate for your audience will emerge. Use this feedback to set the profile of your ideal speaker and consult it often as you review candidates.
- Find a speaker who has a track record of going the extra mile for clients.
If you read testimonials from past clients of your target speakers, or if you talk to planners who hired those speakers, you’ll likely be able to deduce which speakers fall into this category. As an agent and manager for speakers, I always try to go beyond the call of duty for my clients (meeting planners), and I like to work with speakers who do the same. One speaker I work with, for example, has a picture of himself visiting a rock quarry when he was preparing to speak to a pavement association. Another of my favorite speakers invited a prospective client to his farm – before the event was even booked – and they met for a full day talking about the dynamics of this particular meeting and determining how they could create the optimal program. Those are signs of speakers who are committed to the success of your event, and those are the speakers you want to work with.
- Treat your speaker with respect and courtesy from the moment the contract is signed – before, during, and after your event.
What does this have to do with finding the perfect keynote speaker for your event? After you’ve done all of your homework and considered the lessons above, you should have found yourself a very good speaker – actually, a great speaker. And guess what – great speakers know great speakers! The community of professional speakers is a tight-knit one, so when you find the perfect speaker, take care of him or her so you’re remembered as an “A-1” client. Then that speaker will tell other speakers about you, and she will probably tell you about some other speakers. Then you have a tremendous head-start on next year’s speaker search. And I’m sure you’ve learned by now, finding a speaker through a recommendation is much better than having to find one from scratch. That speaker who works with you this year will have an insider’s perspective on your event, so he can recommend additional speakers to you with accuracy, knowing who would or would not fit with your audience.
And there you have it! By taking note of just these six simple reminders, you’re well on your way to booking the perfect speaker for your next event. Here’s to making your next event the most successful ever.