Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

January 07 2014

How to Supercharge Your Speaker Prep

By David McMillin

Anytime 4,000 people come together for four days of learning, there’s plenty of work cut out for those in charge. Long before meeting professionals arrived in Boston for Convening Leaders 2014, PCMA’s meetings and education team was hard at work to ensure that speakers under-stood the ins and outs of attendees: who they are, what they do, how they learn and what they expect to take home. I caught up with Ann Johnson, Associate Director, Programs, Education, PCMA, to get a sense of what goes on in the early stages to make sure that speakers from out-side the meetings industry are ready to meet attendee needs.

SEE ALSO: Convening Leaders Speaker Prep Webinars Here and Here

“We ask a lot of our speakers,” Johnson says. “I think that’s a growing trend throughout the industry.”

From the first moment speakers put Convening Leaders on their calendars, they know they have their work cut out for them.

“When they’re contracted, we try to make it clear that Convening Leaders is not your typical conference,” Johnson says. “We aren’t looking for the recycled speeches that they’ve used at other meetings.”

“We want something fresh,” Johnson adds. “We ask speakers to think bigger and explore controversial issues and new angles to topics, and we ask them to rethink their delivery, too. Our audience craves an experiential element.”

SEE ALSO: The One Thing Your Keynote Should Do Before the Speech

Bringing Volunteer Voices to the Conversation

Helping them understand the issues and trends that matter to meeting planners and suppliers doesn’t just happen at PCMA headquarters in Chicago. Johnson says session development conference calls include a range of volunteers, including a representative from the Annual Meeting Planning Committee and, in many cases, a member of one of PCMA’s 15 task forces.

“We cover a lot of ground in those conference calls,” Johnson says. “Our task force members play a crucial role in articulating the vision they have for these sessions.”

“In many cases, our speakers tell us that they haven’t had that kind of preparation in the past,” Johnson adds.

Only one conference call is required, but Johnson says that many speakers return for multiple discussions to refine their sessions.

Rewarding Speakers with New Skills

While the primary focus is ensuring that all presentations are designed to satisfy meeting professionals in each room, speakers can reap some big benefits, too. This year, PCMA is incorporating two different classroom technologies into a select number of sessions. The most adventurous speakers will be able to take advantage of opportunities to explore how NiceMeeting’s second screen technology and Quick Mobile’s Convening Leaders mobile app can change the learning environment.

SEE ALSO: Win-Win - Engage Your Attendees and Satisfy Their Tech Addictions

“These speakers will get a chance to build their toolkits,” Johnson says. “It’s a chance to expand their portfolios and set them apart in future speaking engagements. We’re supporting them with plenty of training and user guides to make sure they understand the tools, too.”

Want to get a better picture of how Convening Leaders speakers get ready for the meeting? Check out these two webinars here and here  for PCMA’s presenters.


  1. 1 Chris Reagan 22 Jan
    It's important to note that professional speakers and professional speakers bureaus insist on this level of engagement. Many speakers who speak to support their "other" activities do not and they suffer, your audience suffers and you suffer the consequence of that. Although always a challenge even celebrity speakers can be "coached" to provide a tailored program if they wake up to the fact that it is really in their best interest as well as all of the other the stake holders interest.   PCMA is to be applauded for the effort made to raise the bar.
  2. 2 Rosa Garriga 22 Jan
    Kudos to PCMA for training the speakers so well! I attended the conference without having read this article, but it was so evident that you had put a lot of effort into speaker coaching! In fact, it's one of my main takeaways from this conference, which you can read about here: http://myqaa.com/blog/116/what-i-learned-at-pcmas-convening-leaders-2014
    Hope to attend many more PCMA conferences!

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