People primarily attend meetings for networking and education, and to promote their businesses. Developing content for these meetings and events is important, and it’s crucial you communicate with your instructors to help them create content that makes the meeting memorable and worthwhile for attendees. It also should be beneficial for your speakers. Here are five ideas to help formulate that process, from a speaker’s perspective.
1. Communicate expectations. Presenters can only deliver what you give them. They will do the research, apply their experiences and expertise, and then research again. But attendees can be trapped by a speaker’s lack of message appeal, which ultimately makes or breaks a meeting experience. Share as much information as possible with the presenter up front. For example, share meeting history about what your audiences liked and didn’t like about other speakers. As the event nears, communicate more frequently to confirm and double check last-minute details.
2. Be flexible with travel. Giving speakers the option to arrive early is wise. Weather is unpredictable, and today’s percentage of travel snags is higher than ever. Don’t be cheap about a hotel room for an extra night. Having presenters show up early can be an advantage. Utilize their time by creating opportunities to connect with attendees before the presentations. Also, always ask your speakers about possible backup presenters. Qualified professional speakers have a community to draw upon to provide alternate presenters on the same or similar topics if the need arises, which could save you from scrambling at the last minute. If a speaker cannot get out of your city due to weather-related or other unforeseen matters, help arrange additional accommodations. The speaker might have an engagement in another city shortly after your event.
3. Discuss room setup. Venues usually limit the type of room arrangements allowed, but discuss room expectations with speakers. Certain ones plan extremely interactive programs where audience members are out of their seats and moving around. A room set up classroom- or theater-style makes this difficult. Ask speakers about any specific suggestions for setup well in advance. If challenges arise, encourage them to be creative with the rooms, which is what attendees expect today anyway.
4. Assign a liaison. As the planner, you are busy with details and logistics. Once the speaker is confirmed, assign a reliable individual to handle his needs, such as airport pickup, hotel check-in and agenda review. A liaison is extremely helpful when a speaker has multiple tasks to juggle, such as conducting a keynote, breakout or book signing. For the educator, having one point of contact makes a huge difference in helping things run smoothly, especially when something needs immediate attention. After all, if a session presenter doesn’t receive the help or resources needed, that speaker—and the attendees—won’t be happy.
5. Have a team mindset. Consider speakers extensions of your hardworking team. Don’t micromanage or overanalyze everything they are going to say. For example: Asking for PowerPoint slides weeks in advance is difficult. Speakers want to be relevant to your meeting, so allow them to decide how to manage their slides for the best outcome. Just as meetings professionals follow their favorite suppliers from venue to venue, presenters like to do the same with event planners. They have business models with lots of other programs, including training, consulting and coaching. Talk with them, ask for feedback and listen for a new perspective or suggestions in order to improve your meeting next time.
It’s important to maximize a speaker’s time with the valuable services you provide. A presenter’s ultimate job is to meet your expectations. Your job is to provide something meaningful for the attendees. Approaching an event as a team helps create the experience everyone wants.
This is a guest post by Deborah Gardner, CMP, an event speaker.