How To Avoid A Conference Speaker Disaster
Events come and ago more times than we would like to count. The ones we remember are the ones that offered us incredible experiences via food, speakers, and decor. We remember others because of the jaw dropping disasters that occurred in our presence. For an Event Planner, limiting the amount of disastrous experiences our guests have is critical for many reasons to include our reputation being on the line. Last night the world experienced one of those disasters at the Republican National Convention (RNC). Melania Trump was the Keynote Speaker and her speech, although filled with amazing points, was very similar to a 2008, Michelle Obama convention speech that sent Twitter and news entities into a frenzy.
For conference and convention producers it's pretty easy to pick topics for a Conference Speaker to have. Through surveys, trending topics, and the latest buzz in your particular industry, you have a slew of options to pick from. The harder task is picking a seasoned Keynote that is fluent in the protocol of public speaking and the preparation that goes into speaking.
Here are some lessons to be learned when hiring a speaker.
1 - Hire Conference Speakers Who Research And Properly Prepare Their Speech
Never should there be a time where a Speaker removes themselves from the topic they have been asked to speak on due to a writer drafting their speech for them. All Speakers should include the producers in the drafting of their speech and outline how they came up with the content for their speech. One of the best things to check on is the Speaker's understanding of the topic, audience, and industry they will be in front of. This helps them to create a speech that the audience can relate to.
When you have a team aiding you in creating your speech, there should be fact checkers in place to ensure your content is factual and also original. Producers do your homework and ensure that if a Speaker is going to repurpose an existing speech, that it's a speech of their own or properly credited. In Trump's case, CNN reports Trump denies the comparison to Obama. It's my opinion that the person speaking the content should be responsible for what is said and not the writer. Also if you see a clear comparison it is OK to make such a statement.
2 - Understand The Risks That Come With High Profile Speakers
Certainly a high profile Speaker will bring a large audience to your event. However, be aware of the quality of your Speaker as the message is the most important things that will resonate well past your event. You can have the highest paid Speaker and most loved and still have an event that missed the mark because the connection to the audience was missed due to bad content. High profile Speakers also suck up much of your event budget possibly causing other areas of your event to suffer. One area can possibly be the Public Relation team's ability to go into crisis management should your Speaker miss the mark.
3 - Check Your Speaker References
It's rare to be hired for a job without being asked for a reference. This is a vital question to better understand the experience of your Conference Speaker. Having a Speaker who is ill equipped to speak in front of your audience will serve as a major blow to your agenda. When asking for a reference be clear that you are seeking other event organizers who have hired them . This allows you to receive first-hand information on how the Speaker did. Of course the information is one sided, that's why it's best to have more than one reference.
4- Be Sure To Ask The Conference Speaker To Be Available After Their Speech
Have you ever loved a Speaker so much (mine is Oprah) that you wanted to meet them after their speech with follow up questions or comments, but they went to a nuclear bunker to avoid you? It's the absolute worst move a Speaker can make after they are done because it paints them as a less engaging person who doesn't care about the audience they just spoke in front of.
Making sure your Speaker is open to sticking around to clarify parts of their speech and answer questions further enhances the experience of your guests. This gives them more reasons to purchase tickets to your next event and anticipate your next Speaker. You want a Speaker that will continue the conversation and not be fearful even if someone doesn't agree with what they said.
5 - Be A Great Storyteller
Storytelling is one of our key aspects when it comes to event planning. As a Conference Speaker telling a story about a moment in your life should always be easy. You've lived it!!! Never create fantasies that those close to you know not to be true or others can find out to be a lie. “You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone's soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose. That tale will move them and drive them and who knows that they might do because of it, because of your words. That is your role, your gift.” ― Erin Morgenstern.