Robyn Bourne, chief talent officer at BTO Talent, says the right speaker can make or break an event.
So, you’ve been tasked with organising a keynote for the marketing expo, a dinner for 100 stakeholders, or the awards ceremony for a business sector. Excellent! Now all you need is a speaker – do you remember that person you saw at that last event you went to, the one that was on that TV show everyone liked? Well, they’ll do for your event – or will they?
It is a common misconception that an event or exhibition can be moulded around the speakers. Pick a good speaker and everything else will fall into place. Whilst this is certainly true if you get the right speaker initially, you do have to put a certain amount of effort into thinking about what you are looking for, finding someone who can deliver on your objectives and outcomes.
Just because someone is a household name does not necessarily mean that they can fulfil the task that you are looking for – you wouldn’t hire someone for a job who wasn’t the best qualified, and you should do the same when it comes to speakers. There is a vast difference between someone who can speak and a professional speaker who has taken the time to understand what you are looking for and has crafted their speech, workshop or keynote around your outcomes. Professional speakers will take time to understand the audience and match what they are going to say accordingly.
Do you want someone who can deliver something unique for you, tailored to your requirements, and deliver the best for your event? If so, consider a speaker who is versatile and doesn’t deliver the same speech with the same slides at every talk they do. Occasionally this is exactly what you are looking for though, if you want to know just what you are getting – you’ve seen it, you liked it and you want it for your event. Just make sure you are in control and are getting what you need to make your event a success.
I have worked with many speakers over the years. Each and every time I have found that the best events are when you take ‘who they are’ out of the equation and work on ‘what they can deliver’ instead. Every speaker has their place, their expertise and their comfort zone – however, at the end of the day, they are a commodity and you want to find the best one for you. Getting this match really can make an event that is spoken about for a long time; where everyone went home with something they could implement into their work or personal life immediately, or laughed so much they were telling people about it for weeks afterwards. Get it wrong and all they will be talking about is ‘that event’ and how bad it was – something that no event organiser wants to hear.
Speakers also talk to each other and are reluctant to accept an event where they don’t have a full understanding of what they are being asked to deliver. In order to ensure that you attract the right calibre of speakers each year it is vital to get this defined. Know what you are looking for, what you want to achieve and share your return on investment (ROI) with the speaker. Appreciate that a professional speaker, who does this for a living rather than as a way of advertising their ‘products’, will work with you to help you achieve this and won’t try and persuade you that their ‘standard’ talk will work just fine.
Lastly, budgets are always a difficult question when it comes to booking speakers. Yes, there are people who will speak for free, but consider objectively what they will bring to the event. No-one likes to be sold to, and as the event organiser this will just reflect badly on you. Are you happy to provide a platform to sell from or are you looking for a professional speaker who can deliver a speech without any agenda other than ensuring that you, the customer, is delighted with the outcome? I have seen both work, but you as the organiser need to be sure which route you want to go down to ensure that your customers will return again and again.