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 Selecting the Right Speaker

"The most important element in a successful meeting is finding the right speaker."

What Makes a Meeting Most Memorable?
Consider the time the keynote speaker bombed. Did you ever hear the end of it? But when the speaker got the group excited about the meeting, or made everyone laugh following the awards program, or sent everyone home with a new commitment to professionalism - didn’t you hear about that for months to come as well? The experiences that cause us to learn stay with us far longer than the memory of a good theme, a fabulous meal or fancy decor.

What Do You Need?

First you must decide the goal or purpose of your meeting. Is your meeting primarily an educational session? Are you looking for light entertainment or and inspiring motivational charge? Think about how the speaker will fit. A professional speaker - an individual earns his or her living on the platform - brings a wealth of experience to make your meeting a success.

Why Use a Professional Speaker?

    • Getting value for your dollar is an important factor in any business. The professional speaker allows you to predict that value in advance of your meeting by providing:
    • Support material that lets you know on what subject he/she speaks, types of programs and in what format.
    • References. When you check the references, ask about the kind of group. What were their needs? Were they met? How effective was the message?
    • Personalization... he/she will learn about your group, what your objectives are, what your specific needs are and then custom-design his/her presentation accordingly in content, format and length.

What does this mean to you? You know exactly what you are getting for your money.

Criteria For Selection of a Speaker

First, the speaker’s credentials are important to you and to your group. You have a background on which you can rely, and impressive credentials can build you meeting attendance. Such credentials are education, experience and certifications. The National Speakers Association has a certification program. In the profession of speaking, the CSP really means something to you. The CSP (Certified Speaking Professional) is a designation of achievement through proven experience.

How Fees Are Determined

As in any business, supply and demand establishes a speaker’s worth in the marketplace. A speaker can be in only one place at a time. As the demand for his or her talents results in a full calendar, fees will escalate. It’s a fact of the marketplace. Remember, you are not paying only for the hours the speaker is on the platform for your group. Built into the fee are the hours spent on researching the talk, improving, updating and custom-designing the speech for your group - not to mention travel time.

Before the Speaker Arrives

Provide a Host
Assign someone who does not have heavy meeting involvement to be your liaison with the speaker. That person should check to be sure the speaker’s sleeping room reservation is in order and that the meeting room and audiovisual materials are as requested. Leave a note for the speaker’s arrival where this contact person can be found. The contact person can check with the speaker shortly after check in and should offer to take the speaker to the meeting room. That is the first place most speakers want to go! In addition to seeing the room, the speaker will probably want to test the microphone and audiovisual equipment. Your liaison person is ideal to escort the speaker to the meeting room to handle introductions to the key persons you have specified.

Room Setup
So your audience can receive the greatest impact from the speaker, the room should be set with no more chairs than the anticipated attendance. The energy and dynamics of the speaker can be readily lost if the attendees are sprinkled throughout the seats, so you may consider roping off the back portion of the room so that the early arrivals take the front seats.

A Bad Introduction Can Spoil a Good Speaker

Some of the most common horror stories are told by speakers about poor introductions. It is your obligation to the speaker and your audience to obtain the speaker’s own printed introduction, which is usually designed to "set the stage." The introducer should be firmly requested not to deviate from the introduction and particularly not to attempt to tell jokes. Diversions that could create a negative environment, such as announcements of bad news, should be avoided.

Stay On Schedule

Rarely would anyone ever ask a concert pianist to give an abbreviated version of Tchaikovsky’s First Concerto. By the same token, since the professional speaker’s presentation is well-timed and rehearsed, you run the risk of spoiling a superb presentation if it has to be cut... especially on short notice.

After the Presentation

Again, your liaison person should be sure the speaker is not left stranded if everyone rushes to other sessions or social events. Be sure the speaker’s transportation is properly coordinated for smooth departure. If arrangements have been made for the speaker’s lodging to be on the master account, check to be sure this is understood by the cashier.

Last but not least, send the speaker the evaluations on his or her presentation. We all grow from feedback on our performance. A reference letter is appreciated with any publicity about the presentation.