Getting More From Your Speakers In 2020
By Warren Cass, 19 Nov 2019
Like so many industries, the events industry has seen enormous change in recent years, particularly when it comes to audience expectations. Of course, this places more pressure on the shoulders of event organisers but I believe it is the responsibility for all involved to raise their game, especially the speakers.
Speakers must do more than just simply present, and the more enlightened realise that audience interaction happens not just during a presentation, but before, during and after.
Here are a number of ideas to help you get more value from your speakers in 2020. Let me know what you would add @WarrenCass.
Seek Out Speakers Who Personalise Their Talks
Gone are the days of speakers turning up and trotting out the same keynote they have delivered a thousand times before. The most effective speakers will care about your audience enough to understand the challenges they face and what they care about. What they deliver should always be contextualised in order to achieve maximum impact for your delegates.
Here’s where you can help… tell them! Consider doing a short survey in advance of the event and share the results.
Or ask us for a copy of our audience questionaire!
Many of our speakers like to visit the client in advance and even organise a telephone call with a couple of attendees before the event to understand their reality. Remember context matters!
A little bit of preparation will make you both look like superstars.
Involve Your Speaker at the Planning Stage
Don’t be afraid to use your speaker as a sounding board. Most speakers who have been around the block a few times will have seen the ‘good, the bad and the ugly’ of events over the years, and will know what works & what doesn’t.
I like to roll up my sleeves and get involved whenever possible. I have even been known to attend planning meetings (Particularly when I am the MC) and debrief meetings afterwards. A better understanding of the event objectives will result in a more focussed delivery on the day.
*Side Note – If there is a theme to your event and you are looking for multiple speakers, often we will have shared the stage with good, complimentary speakers in the past and will happily make recommendations.
Always Manage Your Speaker's Expectations
As an extension to the planning point above, It’s a good idea to let your speakers know what to expect regularly before the event. Have you sold out of all of your tickets? What is the anticipated audience size? What is the venue size? Maybe you’ve booked a more intimate venue, let them know.
I will add to this in a future post, but in the context of getting the most value from your speakers, giving them a heads-up will benefit everybody in the long run. They will also be able to prepare a presentation that is appropriate for the size of the audience ensuring maximum impact.
Can Your Speakers Provide Ice Breakers or Filler Content?
I attended a recent event where another speaker had unexpectedly, through no fault of their own had to cancel. The panicked organiser asked if I had another presentation I was able to deliver, and luckily, I was able to oblige.
Most speakers have a number of ice breakers up their sleeves, or short masterclasses they can deliver should you need someone to expertly fill time. I never leave home without mine
Sometimes things go wrong… Fortune favours the prepared mind.
Ask Your Speakers For Relevant Supporting Content
Ask your speakers for teaser content which you can use on your blog or newsletter.
Most speakers I know share their ideas across multiple media and often write for various publications. Most would be more than happy to provide an article or two for promotional purposes in advance of your event.
Are they prepared to be interviewed? What questions would interest your audience?
Ask Your Speakers for a Pre-Event Webinar
Similar to the point above... Of course, the purpose of the webinar is to generate interest in the event and not to deliver all of your content up front, which could be a reason for people not to attend.
A short webinar to create desire in advance & help promotion can be very effective for getting bums on seats. In fact, this week I am delivering a webinar (recorded) for the international colleagues of a corporate client who cannot make the live seminar on the very same day (This hasn’t been advertised).
Ask Your Speaker for a Pre-Event Video
This is becoming a more common requirement for speakers and is similar to the webinar & written content points above. However, a video will be more effective at engaging with your delegates pre-event.
These don’t need to be shot in a studio using a professional film crew (although this is of course desirable), they can be shot effectively with a phone camera or decent webcam also. A professional speaker will already be mindful of the sound quality, background and message. Let them know if there is anything you need to include, like thanking your sponsors etc.
Ask Your Speakers to Get Involved on Social Media
Before you consider the speakers for your next event, take a look at their social media activity. Successful speakers today are far more likely to share ideas and be part of the conversation online.
A decent sized following is a barometer for how established they are and can be useful for creating a buzz around your event.
Ask them to get involved and to use your hashtag, it will increase anticipation for your audience and is a definite value add.
Ask Permission to Record Your Speaker's Talk
Most professional speakers will have a clause about video in their contract. Of course, from their point of view they want to ensure the quality and control where it is distributed. Asking for permission to record their talk means you have marketing material for future events, content for your website, a useful reminder for your audience who may want to re-visit the ideas shared… to name just a few reasons.
But there are commercial benefits also. If your event was sponsored, a video provides additional exposure for your sponsors after the event, making your proposition more attractive.
If your speakers have personalised their content as in point 1 above, it seems a shame to waste it.
Always seek the win/win scenario. Give the speaker access to the raw footage so they can use it for their website or show reel. If you publish it on your website, link to theirs.
Ask Your Speakers to Join your VIP's for Breakfast, Lunch or Dinner
Yes, there are speakers who will just show up for their talk and then leave straight away. But there are many of us who are happy to add more value by joining the event VIP’s for lunch or dinner. I typically put the full day aside so I can incorporate the ideas of the speakers before me, or if I am on first, set the day up for everyone else and continue the discussion with the delegates during the breaks.
I have even on occasion facilitated a table discussion based on my talk to get people actively involved in my content.
Look to reinforce the message after the event
So, the event is over… now what? Great speakers are normally happy to re-inforce their message after your audience has left the room.
Obviously, the content ideas above can all apply (Video summary of key points, a blog or article, an interview etc.). I have on occasion been asked to write a specific 40-page guide for a client which they paid for.
Don’t forget Social media too, a great speaker will review the various social streams and respond to questions, comments & observations. Answering questions and engaging delegates afterwards impresses and may positively impact the attendance of your next event.
Engagement is key and successful speakers understand the benefits of that for you.