Posted: March 22, 2012
Written by: Brad P.
Maybe one of the hardest decisions a meeting planner has to make is booking the speaker. You can see the hotel room, taste the food, and ride on the bus. But how do you know that the speaker that looked good in the brochure or sounded great on the video is going to “wow” your audience? Recommendations are valuable, especially from a source that you trust, but nothing compares to being in the audience and seeing that speaker live and up-close. An added value, for shall I say comfort level, is visiting one-on-one with the speaker to make sure that the person can tailor their presentation to your upcoming event. Chemistry between the planner and the speaker is important and meeting that person is added assurance that you have picked someone that is dependable, flexible and low maintenance.
In February, the Kansas City Meeting Industry Council held its fourth annual speakers showcase. The intent was to give meeting planners the opportunity to see local speakers demonstrate their best work and develop partnerships face-to-face. Presenters were given 10 minutes each and in “speaker time” that’s just enough time to get in one good story or make one good point. Notables included the ‘voice of the big 12,’ Dave Armstrong, and former FBI agent, Jeff Lanza. By a lucky coincidence, the Kansas City Convention & Visitors Association was bringing in a nationally known speaker for their annual banquet on the same day – branding expert, Bruce Turkel. So, attendees got to hear this national speaker and his comments on how to brand your meeting or banquet (an added bonus was he even had time to play the harmonica for us). The audience had a smorgasbord of talent and topics from a very professional group. This was a great event to give meeting planners an opportunity that is not usually available or affordable. The best measure of success will be by the number of speakers that are booked and early indicators are that numerous matches were made.
But you say, what if I can’t visit the speaker live? Here are five suggestions you might consider to insure that you’ll choose the right speaker for your next meeting or event.
1. Look for the CSP designation after their name. The Certified Speaking Professional is an earned designation from the National Speakers Association. Among other qualifications the speaker must provide documented proof of 250 paid speaking engagements.
2. Website. Does this speaker have a website and does it have video clips in front of live audiences? Look for a listing of groups this speaker has spoken in front of in the past and see how those audiences might have similar needs as your own.
3. Phone interview. Talk with the speaker and describe your meeting. Ask how they would tailor their presentation to your group. What kind of audio/visual does the speaker need? What length of presentation does the speaker feel best suits them? How does the speaker handle expenses?
4. References. Can the speaker provide references of groups that are similar to your group. Call at least three of these references and see how the speaker was received on stage as well as how they were to deal with off stage.
5. Upcoming engagements. Ask where the speaker is presenting in the near future. Is it possible that you might know someone local to the engagement to sit in the back and watch both the speaker and the audience reaction?
The keynote speaker can really affect the success of your meeting or event. Taking time to get the right person for your topic and audience will ensure a good return on investment.