Speakers – transforming your event or just filling time?

Booking a guest speaker can be the best investment you make in a
conference; however, it is a task that requires considerable care.
Follow some simple rules and your speaker can pay dividends. It’s all
in the planning. Conferences often need to fulfill a number of goals;
to inform, educate, inspire. Your speaker can help you achieve these.

Start with the organisation’s objectives in holding a conference. I
asked a client about this, only to be told, “Well, we do this every
year”. Whereas others will have prepared a document detailing exactly
what they hope to achieve.

What are the key messages that the organisation wants to deliver? It
could be that you want to inspire the sales teams to sell new products
and inform them of the product’s unique selling points.

In the current climate some have made redundancies, but want to show those who remain that they have a positive future.

It may seem that you are now ready to find your speaker, but there is
one more vital thing to assess. Quite often speakers are chosen or
rejected because a meeting planner, or more often a company director,
says: “I think this person is great”, or, “I can’t stand that TV show
they are in.” To avoid personal opinions complicating your choice of
speaker, determine who the audience is and develop a profile. Consider
the kind of speaker who they would respond best to, create a check list
of criteria and then to find your speaker.

Define your budget. Not only do we need to watch what we spend, but
having a price range to work within eliminates options from your
shortlist, making the research and selection easier. Celebrities cost
money, so if your audience is obliged to attend the conference, you
have the luxury of being able to focus your search on quality rather
than popularity. At the other end of the spectrum you may have a
ticketed event and need to attract an audience. In this instance your
speaker will not only need to deliver a message, but they may also have
to be well known (and popular) to encourage ticket sales. A word of
caution though, don’t forsake quality for popularity. The last thing
you want is to sell out your event and have everyone leave thinking
that the keynote speaker did not live up to the hype.

You may want an entrepreneur, sports personality or adventurer to tell
their inspirational story. On Parliament’s books is Joe Simpson, of
Touching the Void fame, who can deliver messages relating to risk, goal
setting, teamwork, leadership and at the same time inspire delegates to
face challenges and never give up. Derek Redmond is, perhaps, not as
well known, but with a smaller budget, he is one of the most
inspirational speakers you can find. Completing the top 10 speakers for
Parliament’s clients are Dee Caffari, Michael Portillo, Diane Abbott,
James Cracknell, Ben Fogle, Yossi Ghinsberg, Erin Brockovich, and Vince

Your speaker bureau should be able to understand your event and tell
you how to get the most out of your speaker. If they give you a list to
pick from, try another speaker bureau!

Paul Colston


Paul Colston

Managing Editor, Conference News & Conference & Meetings World.

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