It’s important to understand how you as an event manager can get the best out of the conference speakers you engage – and hopefully mediate against any potential melt down moments.
Aside from a select few celebrity conference speakers who will undoubtedly have a few unusual demands, conference speakers are just like you and me – they’ve got a job to do and they need specific elements to make it happen.
Most of these are common sense but you’ll have to indulge me – especially as they are so often forgotten by even the most organised event managers.
1. A comprehensive briefing
This is by far the most important bit of the entire process and could probably fill an entire post – but I won’t waste your time especially when the message is simple: bad briefing, bad speaker.
You need to tell your conference speakers everything you can about the event. Now I’m not talking about delivering reams of paper on your budget, catering options or toilet facilities. I’m referring to the nitty gritty content info. You should provide all conference speakers with relevant detail on the aims and objectives of the event, other conference speakers, the audience demographic (age, gender, occupation, seniority) and what you expect from their session.
This can either be done by phone call or written briefing. In my experience, a short call followed by a written summary works the best and gives you a chance to introduce yourself to the speaker as well as provide a written reference for them to return to.
The information will allow the conference speaker to design a session that is tailored to your audience and should (fingers crossed) get the best reaction from delegates.
2. A green room
Believe it or not most conference speakers will get nervous before they go on, not in a ‘I’m going to die of stage fright’ kind of way but in a way that means they’ll need a calm and private space available so they can prepare.
Something as simple as arranging for a team member to meet the speaker at the registration desk and whisking them off to the ‘Speaker Lounge’ is really appreciated and instantly puts them at ease. It also means that more recognizable faces don’t get swamped by delegates before the session starts.
Now the room itself doesn’t need to be fancy but it really should have…
3. Tea & Coffee – and a bottle of water!
I don’t know about you but the first thing I do when someone comes to my house is stick the kettle on. Your event is like your house; it’s your territory so make your conference speakers feel welcome.
Every event has a key stakeholder (or several) that needs impressing. Most conference speakers are professional networkers who know how to turn on the charm. It’s a skill that you can use to your advantage but only if you make the appropriate introductions.
This has only ever backfired on me once… the speaker in question will remain nameless but it’s safe to say that when he batted away the Chairman of RBS to have a microphone fitted I wanted the ground to open up and swallow me whole.
If you’ve done your research, spoken to other event organisers or consulted a reputable agency then the hard work is done. All there’s left to do is to sit back, relax and trust in the speaker to deliver a memorable session that leaves you basking in glowing feedback.