Choosing the Right Event Speaker. 7 Key Influencers Weigh In: Part Two.

read time

The Top Event Planners in the industry share their thoughts on choosing the perfect speaker for every event. Hint: It's not just about Speakers Bureaus. 

What if anything should corporate event marketers be doing differently when evaluating and selecting speakers (e.g., what are the best practices)?

Tracy Fuller:"Unfortunately, many speaker videos just don’t tell the whole picture. Building a relationship with a good speakers bureau and really sharing your goals and expectations will go a long way in finding speakers that consistently fit your needs year after year.

The speakers bureau is an extension of your event team. Speakers bureaus have a wide variety of speakers and can guide you to speakers you might not be aware of."

Christy Lamagna:"Marketing professionals are familiar with the ‘rule of seven,’ which speaks to the principle that people need to be exposed to a message seven times before taking action. Ironically when we hire speakers we imagine that hearing someone once will change behavior. When hiring a speaker, additional content should be negotiated so the speaker’s message is reinforced each month leading up to and/or after the event.

When it comes to measuring effectiveness a few good questions to ask are:

  • What do you think the speaker was trying to convey? It’s enlightening to learn what people heard vs. what was said.

  • What is the most important thing the person learned from the speaker and how, specifically will they apply it to their job?

  • What did they hope to learn that was not discussed? This will allow you to identify areas that need to be addressed."

Jill Downing:"It is vitally important to have the professional event planner directing the process to research, recommend, and select keynote and session speakers, while working in collaboration with various company departments.

We are so fortunate to have effective resources at our fingertips, such as the Midwest Speakers Bureau. It is key to work with experts like Angela Cox-Weston at the Bureau, to find powerful speakers who are able to tell a story which makes a lasting impact for a particular audience.

Conducting a post-event evaluation (internally) and post-event survey (externally) can provide a guidepost and strong game plan if the conference is held on an annual basis. Reviewing the attendee comments regarding the keynote and session speakers, and comparing the process of how each speaker was recruited, will aid in determining the most effective methods for locating speakers to achieve a successful outcome for the corporate conference." 

Sarah Michel:"They must first start with this question first: 'What do I want the audience to think, feel or do as a result of experiencing this speaker?'  Once you have those answers, you go look for the right speaker/facilitator/expert who can get the audience response you desire.

We’re big fans of main room experiences (general session) because it brings the profession together as a community and often is the only time all the attendees are together. We often recommend, for the opening session, using a thought-leader who has an expertise/message/theme that can be threaded throughout the conference. The closing session should be inspirational/motivational to send people out the door on an emotional high.

Video is king. Every speaker worth hiring should have some video footage you can watch to see how they command an audience. Don’t be fooled by slick, highly edited and produced video 'sizzle reels' that can make anyone look good. Watch raw footage, or better yet, find out where the speaker will be speaking next and ask for permission to come see them live."

Nick Borelli:"Pay more attention to their LinkedIn background than their website. Look for videos or podcast interviews to see how they deliver messages.

Ask the speakers what they are the most passionate about teaching right now. While they have sessions they can deliver with their eyes closed, they likely have a cause that gets them excited and that’s where they will put more energy into for your attendees.

Lastly, don’t let their speaker fee be an immediate barrier to working with someone you feel is the right fit for your event. Discuss creative solutions to receiving more value from your speakers to offset costs, such as using them as a unique sponsor benefit or content creation for your ongoing marketing efforts."

Jennafer Ross:"Selecting the RIGHT speaker is an entirely different thing. Factors such as audience demographics, the objective for the speaker—as an emcee, to entertain, keynote speakers to educate or enlighten—are all things that must be considered to start the process of speaker selection. 

Other factors that some people all too often do not consider and should are social media and political activity. Having a speaker who does not offend or is not under negative scrutiny is crucial—unless you are going for a shock and awe factor. Then use the social media and news outlets to your advantage."

Keith Johnston:"Surprisingly, not that many corporate planners use the world's second largest search engine (YouTube) when vetting their speakers.

Any speaker who makes it to the final round of selection should have plenty of videos out there showing them ply their craft. These give planners an idea of the speaker's style and their delivery. Are they upbeat, happy, snarky, sweary, etc.?

I was talking to a planner last year who had booked a huge comedian and didn't realize that every other word would have to be bleeped out on playback. That could have been avoided by simply watching 10 seconds of any of the speaker's videos."

There you have it! Speakers bureaus are the top resource for identifying potential event speakers, and for good reason. But it's wise to check with peers and professional event planners about their experiences and advice as well. And use online video and social media to help fine-tune your list.