Improving the Odds for Great Speaker Choices

IMPROVING THE ODDS FOR GREAT SPEAKER CHOICES Banner

The ubiquity of social media has brought evolution to just about every aspect of our existences, including how our speakers are considered, selected and utilized as parts of events.

This article will explore some of the ways social media is and can be used as part of an effort to successfully utilize speakers at your events.

There has long been concern about whether event speakers are going to do the job—deliver on the event objectives and, where warranted, please the audience. Good news, and bad, has never traveled faster. It is, perhaps, no coincidence that the mechanism around this speed can also improve the odds of the news being good.

Google It

For the last several years, event owners have explored the internet to more closely examine the speakers they’re considering to obtain a clearer picture of what they might do how they’ve performed for groups, what they’ve written and if they’ve been in the news—as well as to see if there might be lurking skeletons.

And now we can get a look at what they have said formally, or informally, that day, month, or year on the outlets they use.

Will It Play in Peoria?

The marketplace is keen to know not just what your speakers are saying, but what others are saying about the speakers on your program. They’re looking at their social media and their hashtags to see what is being said about them. So if that’s the case, it’s wise that you know too.

The speakers you engage need to neatly support the brand of your event, the organization and the event owners.

Going Deeper

It’s common for conferences to have a hashtag that can often be found on event sites or with a simple ask. If someone you’re considering is speaking next week, you can watch in real time what people are saying about them. You can also look into past event hashtags, perhaps one from a group like yours, and see what people had to say.

Corporate events tend to be far more private and hashtags for them are far less common.

Get Out the Salt Grains

Progress usually involves some sort of discomfort. Hospitality is just part of our business. Business people use events to move organizations and people to a new place. I’ve been on enough briefing calls and reviewed evaluations for over 25,000 speeches and can safely say that some of the most effective receive only polite applause, upset some of the attendees and are even referred to as “nuts.” Don’t dismiss someone you are considering due to less-than-perfect social media comments. Business, like events, is not a popularity contest.

“I’m Honored to Have Spoken for XYZ Corporation”

While you’re there take a look at how the people you’re considering promote themselves and the speeches they’re giving or have given. Make sure it’s in line with your brand and how “public” you wish your event to be. If you would rather they not speak of it publicly, then note that in your offer to them.

Come One, Come All

Competition for attendees to and attention for your events is keen. People with strong social media followings can geometrically build the useful attention your gathering receives and potentially help build attendance. Take a look at their numbers.

It’s become more common to ask your speakers to create special messages that your organization can use to build attendance. Organizations use social media, email, texts, blogs, newsletters and other means to distribute these messages. Two points of caution:

  1. An ask is invariably more powerful when it’s accompanied by an offer of many thousands of dollars. Pause and consider how you might want your speaker as part of your marketing mix and get as many asks as possible into your offer.
  2. The U.S. Federal Trad Commission has regulations about contracted public messages being a form of advertising, and these sorts of things need to be marked as such. There’s too much to these rules to cover here, but make sure you’re aware of the current state of these regulations.
“I Want People to Say Wow”

We regularly engage in conversations about speakers who might make a BIG splash. While it might seem obvious to you, we often feel the need to carefully, and awkwardly, remind decision makers that those they select to present at their events need to be good and not just “feel” right.

Part of it is expectations that are usually a key part of satisfaction. Your attendees expect a great deal of the notables on your agenda. Compromise on fame before presentation quality.

It’s become far more acceptable for celebrities to engage in some form of moderated Q&A with an audience and not deliver a speech, or deliver something untraditionally short. This has dramatically increased the supply of available celebrities, and I’ve been impressed (and so have our customers) which how well this sort of thing impacts events and audiences.

It’s obvious that your choice of talent is important, but so is the skill of the moderator/interviewer. People in organizations want to be the one on stage with the celebrity. I’ve seen that work, but I’ve also seen it spoil a great opportunity and big investment. Increasingly, I’m seeing talent specifying a “professional” moderator to help increase the odds of success. 

*This article originally appeared in the the December issue of The Meeting Professional. Re-posted with permission.

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