The Guide To Guest Speakers, Part Two: Working With Guest Speakers
Last Updated on August 19, 2021
So, you’ve managed to net yourself an industry expert speaker or two who’s interested in speaking at your event. Working with guest speakers can be complicated—you need to sign contracts, negotiate payment, AND give them their freedom (while also steering them to remain relevant to your event). In short, the next step is to ask yourself how you can avoid making them hate you before you’ve even begun.
This is part two of this series, for part one, go here.
I’m going to be drawing primarily on the expertise of Julius Solaris of the Event Manager Blog. Primarily, I’ll be making reference to his article “Dear Event Planner, I Hate You. Sincerely, Your Speaker.” Solaris has, over the course of his career, taken on the role of both guest speaker and event planner. He knows the best—and worst—of both worlds. I’ll also be pulling a bit out of Dale Carnegie’s book, “How To Win Friends and Influence People.”
Trust me—I have a very good reason for that.
Solaris’s article and Carnegie’s book have something in common; a core piece of advice that often ends up being forgotten amidst the pressures of running an event: the best way to get on anyone’s good side is to be a genuine, respectful, and respectable human being.
Working With Guest Speakers
Many event management professionals, explains Solaris, don’t appear to follow this advice. They are patently unfair to their speakers, displaying behavior that ranges from mildly insulting to downright disrespectful. It should be quite clear why this is a bad thing: event planners that treat guest speakers with a lack of consideration are very likely to find it harder and harder to secure people to talk at their conferences.
The first piece of advice Solaris give when working with guest speakers is to reign in your control a little bit. Most event professionals, he explains, are control freaks, “even if you are the most laid-back person on earth, you’ll become a control freak doing this job,” he quips. Unfortunately, that means that these professionals often tend to clash with their speakers, trying to regulate and stipulate everything from how much they communicate on social media to what slides they use in their presentation.
This shows that you either haven’t properly selected your speaker, or that you’re trying to control what they say. Either way, you’re going to be left with an aggravated guest who’s not likely to return for a second event. Let your guest speaker know the general details of what you want them to talk about, and then trust that they’re capable of doing what you hired them for.
You’re still going to need to help them out, of course, mostly by giving them information. Let them know what sort of audience they’re presenting for. In other words… communicate with them. Give them as much information as possible on who’s going to be attending your event, and brainstorm how best to connect with them based on what the speaker usually talks about. You did look into that, didn’t you?
Furthermore—and this is something I covered in part one of this series—offer the speaker something of value. They’re not going to come to your event for free, nor will most of them find handouts like “great exposure” or “paid room and board” acceptable. Work some funds into your budget with which you can pay them for their time.
Always give guest speakers feedback after the event
Lastly, once your event winds down, give them actual, tailored feedback on how their performance was received—even if it’s negative. Don’t just spout off some generic nonsense about how great their session was. Tell them why it was great. There’s some great tips for gathering feedback at the end of this article.
Finding guest speakers to represent your brand at a conference is the hard part. Once you’ve actually managed to track down your speakers, retaining them should be easy. Just treat them like people instead of assets, like valued friends and colleagues instead of walking pockets of brand reputation. A little bit of respect goes a long way, and disrespect sets you back even further.
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