A ‘Great Speaker’ May Not Be Great for All

A ‘Great Speaker’ May Not Be Great for All

“I know a great speaker.”

When I heard those words from a client, friend or colleague, it was music to my ears. I would ask that person who the speaker was and how much they charged.

For a national sales meeting my client, Shannon—we’re sticking to first names here—and I were so excited about the keynote speaker.

The CEO of the company in question heard “Speaker KF” previously, and he was stellar. Except he was not, or at least not for our audience. Big lesson learned.

Now I know to ask the right questions with a velvet tongue.

In my experience, most great speakers tend to be subject matter experts. A celebrity who wrote a book is on a promotions circuit and may or maybe not be an appropriate, polished speaker.

In the beginning, I was only focused on the speaker and the budget. Now I know that, while those two pieces are important, the focus needs to be on how attendees experience and interact with the content of the event. Now, I ask additional questions.

“What is the profile of your attendee? What is the message do you want your participants to walk away with? How will that benefit your organization?”

Successful speakers need to understand and fit into the fabric of the event, and the only way this can happen is if they are included earlier in the planning process.

A speaker’s business is being a subject matter expert that can use a wide variety of content delivery formats to connect with the audience.

Deborah Gardner, CMP offered the following wisdom:

“Speakers are an extremely underutilized resource that should be looked at as part of the planning team. Included in a speaker’s experienced skillset are tips and tools to make a session more interactive and engaging. Speakers know what works well from room setups to encouraging interaction. Bottom line, speakers are experts that can help you ensure that the message of the event is more successfully transmitted to, and understood by, the participant. [Bring them into the planning process early].”

Beth Terry, CSP went to a convention the day before she was scheduled to keynote it (always a great idea if your speaker can swing it). After checking everything out at the convention space, she went to the welcome reception.

“It soon became apparent that the meeting planner had not met her audience,” Beth said. “Essentially, everything she told me they were worried about was balderdash. Not even close. I had written a brilliant speech—for the wrong audience.

“The room was filled with high energy working moms, and they deserved much better than what I had prepared," she added.

[Related Content: Essential Tips for Better Speaker Selection]

Since speakers are the audience’s “conduit to the message,” Beth adjusted the focus of her speech for the convention in question “to identify three things that THIS audience needed to hear. The only reason disaster was avoided was because Beth got to the convention a day early, so there was still time to adapt.

If Beth hadn’t arrived early, things would have been bad for both her and the planner. If she was included earlier in the process, things would have gone a lot smoother.

There are three lessons Deborah quickly learned early in her career.

  1. Speaking is a business, an actual business. There is a lot more to it than just showing up to talk.
  2. Part of being a good speaker is realizing that the speech or presentation is not about you, it’s about the participants. Many speakers still need to check their ego at the door.
  3. It’s all about relationships. Deborah is a hospitality sales veteran which helped her quickly leverage many long-term relationships through organizations like MPI, SGMP and PCMA.

Gentle reader, this blog post (and future posts*) are meant to serve as conversation starters to help make your job easier, while also making your meeting/event/tradeshow more profitable for your client.

It is my fervent hope that you will continue this conversation in the comments below.

Finally, I would greatly appreciate it if you could email me at Lynne@LynneWellish.com with your greatest (or most humbling) event experience and what you learned from it.

Meeting and event professionals, what are your thoughts? Share them in the comments!

*A Note From Lynne Wellish, CMP:

“I received an advanced education from The School of Hard Knocks,” refers to the (sometimes painful) education one gets from life's usually negative experiences, often contrasted with formal education.

Fast forward 30 years—and a lot of knocks later, some good and some bad—and I know so many things now that I wish I knew then.

I have paid for my mistakes, both literally and figuratively, and I want to help fellow meeting planners save time and money, and deliver a better experience to their clients.

My blog posts will discuss greatest mistakes, greatest experiences and what was learned from them.

Reflecting back on your own experiences, did you ever feel the pain of not knowing about hot dates when booking your event, not having entertainment appropriate for the audience, not knowing about power fees or patch fees, or not knowing that sometimes there is a tax on the service charge?

Did you ever greet a mini coach shuttle bus at 4:30 am to take a group hot air ballooning in the rain? How about having a large group check in at a property, only to find that six housekeepers have called in sick that day, all with the same stomach flu?!

I could go on with these fear-inducing scenarios for days.

My best lessons have come from the experiences and wisdom of others.

Stay tuned for future posts for more on what I’ve learned.

Editors' Note: The views expressed by contributing bloggers are their own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Meetings Today or its parent company.

Posted by Lynne Wellish

Lynne Wellish is an award-winning hospitality industry trainer and speaker.

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