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What You Should Expect From Your Speaker

Posted on March 16, 2007

By Warren Greshes, CPAE

As a Meeting Professional, you know the performance of an outside speaker can make or break your meeting.  Outside of the decision making process, which becomes a little easier if you follow the advice in my first blog entry on choosing the right topics, once the speaker is hired, there are many things he or she can do to insure an outstanding performance. 

• Preprogram questionnaires are great, but nothing beats the personal touch.  Preprogram questionnaires are great, but only if used in addition to phone intake and needs analysis sessions (If the speaker is local, a face to face intake session would be perfect).  In my experience there are way too many things I can’t learn about a company from a preprogram questionnaire; plus a piece of paper can’t answer any questions I might have that come from the answers I’m reading.  With many clients, it could take more than one phone conversation. 

In the case of a sales meeting, while I will speak to the meeting planner, I find equally, if not more important to speak to a sales executive or two, in order to get deeper insight into the group, allowing me to customize my talk more effectively .

• Attend the function the night before.  I prefer flying in the day before my speech (I don’t trust the airlines that much), allowing me to attend any receptions and dinners clients might have.  Believe me; I’m not doing it for the hotel food.  I find it gives me a great opportunity to meet and get a feel for my audience.  If nothing else, it helps me find the good sports I can poke fun of, which is a great way to connect with the audience. 

• Attend any sessions going on before the talk.  If there are breakout sessions going on I’ll cruise in and out of them in order to learn more about the issues the audience face and what’s going on in their company, industry and with their clients.  I especially like to sit in on talks given by top executives that outline where the company’s been, where they are now and where they’re going in the future.  There is always something I hear in these sessions that I can use.

• Understand the Meeting Planner has enough to worry about.  Since a Meeting Planner’s job is all about putting out fires, while making sure nobody notices they’re happening, one of the speaker’s responsibilities is to make the Meeting Planner’s life easier.  Speakers should:

o Call just as soon as they check in, to let the Meeting Planner know they’ve arrived. 
o Check out the room where they’ll be speaking in the night before, to avoid any last minute set-up changes.
o Be down early the next morning to test the microphone and AV equipment making sure everything is in perfect working order. 

The way I figure it, the easiest way to get invited back, is to be a great guest.


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