Finding the right speaker for your meeting is important. The speakers set the tone for the whole event, and often the keynote and breakout speakers can leave the audience flat.
There is an ongoing argument about content vs. style when it comes to speakers. I think this is a lot of baloney. Its not too much to ask for both. I recently talked to a meeting planner who said she had directed her to avoid motivating speakers and instead just put experts on the stage. She hated the mandate because she was worried about being guilty of a boring day.
Each speaker must be motivating and have expert content. There are plenty of people who can provide you with content and style ... its not either or a situation.
During the planning phase, its easy to say that you only want content, but when the audience is in the chairs, they do not want a speaker that is just a talk sheet. (This also applies to technical conferences. People are still people regardless of the subject).
What is the opposite of motivation? Lazy? Boring? Dull? Sluggish? Who would like a speaker at his stage that does not motivate, maintain and inspire an audience? A speaker who sucks the energy out of the room never makes anyone happy.
A client told me about the reviews of previous years speakers was good content but I could only have read his white book and saved me an hours pain. Ouch. Its not the type of feedback you want after your conference.
No speaker will announce himself as mediocre, so you have to dedicate yourself to worship the ones you choose. My mantra is Just because someone is smart or has done something cool (or has a title as CEO) - It does NOT mean they belong at the stage.
Here are five questions that can help you when you interview a speaker:
How many presentations has the speaker given to groups in the last year (or two years ... or throughout his career)?
Talking is a skill. The more someone talks the better they get. I have heard that there are a magic number of 300 career presentations that resemble Malcolm Gladwells 10,000-hour theory. At that level, they are usually known through experience. Experience has value that is difficult to match. Those who are good and join the audience will be invited to talk at other events.
Have any groups invited the speaker to come back?
Groups only resume speakers to come back or address other audiences in their organization if they are very impressed with all aspects of the relationship (on and off the stage). A speaker is more than just what they do on stage. If they are difficult to work with outside the scene, they will not be invited back. Ask for references from customers who have used the speaker more than once and call them.
How does the speakers subject (the meat in the conversation) affect the audience? Is it a good fit for your specific audience and why?
Some topics are universal, others are specific based on audience demographics. Making sure the audience is influenced by the speakers words is crucial to success. Ask the speaker and their references this question.
How long will the speaker be present before and after their presentation?
This is most important for several days events. There are speakers that leave immediately after the presentation, while others see their role as more than the scent time. Meeting planners and audiences vary depending on how important it is for the speaker to hang out with the audience. Some feel cheated if the speaker does not participate in the group at breaks, meals and happy hours. Make sure you know the speakers policy on the front, as if you expect them to stay for the day you need to negotiate.
Will the speaker sell books, CDs or other products?
The sales product is not always suitable for each event, but it is often a good opportunity for the speaker and the audience to continue their connection. If the speaker is going to sell something, have a conversation about their sales style and how much time they put on their pitch. There is no correct or wrong answer, but if you have opinions about this issue, you need to talk about it early with the speaker.