Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

August 31 2015

4 Lessons To Make Your Investment In A Keynote Speaker Pay Off

By David McMillin


Maybe you’re looking for a big-name celebrity to bring some star power to your program. Maybe you’re aiming to hire a voice whose story of changing the world will inspire your attendees. Maybe you’re hoping to add the leading expert on the cutting-edge trend that’s on the minds of everyone in your industry. Regardless of what’s shaping your search for a keynote speaker, finding the right name is only a small portion of your success. As you look ahead to the names you want at your next meeting, here are four key lessons that will make the investment in that speaking fee pay big dividends.

1) Put your speaker in the spotlight before anyone arrives on-site.

Prospective attendees are inundated with information. From dealing with their work emails to juggling travel schedules to trying to maintain healthy personal lives, your meeting’s marketing materials may not be first on their reading priority lists. With that in mind, Tim Mathy, Partner at SpeakInc, says it’s crucial to focus on raising a speaker’s profile well in advance of the meeting.

“If your organization has a magazine, insert an interview request into your contract, or arrange a short video blog or a Skype interview ahead of the meeting,” Mathy says. “Do whatever you can to connect the speaker to your attendees and spread the excitement about the appearance.”

In addition to an interview feature, Mathy recommends trying to connect with the speaker’s online social media presence.

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

2) Don’t be afraid to give your speakers some extra work.

“Meeting professionals ofter under-utilize their speakers,” Mathy says. “It would be great to see more organizations ask to take better advantage of the speaker’s on-site time.”

Whether it’s an intimate Q&A session, a C-level VIP conversation or a book signing, speakers can offer much more than a 45-minute address from a big stage.

“Speakers are happy to share their knowledge and their ideas,” Mathy says. “It’s a huge opportunity to offer a more unique experience for attendees. If an organization is interested in trying to provide that type of access, it should be contracted well ahead of time.”

Consider some of the opportunities at Convening Leaders 2015 attendees. After Andrew Zolli delivered Monday morning’s general session speech, Convene’s Chris Durso interviewed him for an hour in the Learning Lounge. Scott Stratten, one of the crowd favorites from the program, made a similar appearance after leading his session. These informal additions to the program give attendees the feeling that they are gaining exclusive access and increase the value of the keynote speaker’s appearance. Rather than listening a slightly altered 45-minute presentation, attendees can dive deeper into trends and issues with the leading voices they respect.

3) Know when the time is right.

The conference program may run from 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM, but not every time slot is created equal when it comes to scheduling keynote speakers. While programming one during lunch may seem like an opportunity to deliver more value to attendees, many speakers don’t have the appetite for mealtime.

“A lot of speakers will not speak while food is being served,” Mathy says. “It’s just too much of a distraction.”

In addition to steering clear of meals, Mathy highlights the importance of catering to the learning behaviors of conference attendees who may feel overloaded with information and business cards by the end of the day. Rather than program the high-level, renowned PhD who plans to discuss the newest changes in molecular biology, there are certain times when the complex lesson book may be better left closed.

“It’s always a good idea to inject some humor into the later part of the daily program,” Mathy says. “The brain just doesn’t function as well in the afternoon.”

SEE ALSO: 4 Things Meeting Planners Can Do To Keep Their Speakers Happy

4) This is about more than a price tag.

$5,000. $12,000. $30,000. The speaking world offers a wide range of fees. However, the fee should not be the only focus.

“A lot of times, meeting professionals look at speakers as commodities, but thinking solely about dollar amounts is not the right approach to determining who is right for the audience,” Mathy says. “Do the research, and watch speaking clips to understand the differences in the offerings.”

“If you have a great speaker, attendees are going to remember the stories they told for a long time,” Mathy adds. “They’ll share them with their friends, and they’ll remember them when it’s time to register for another conference. That lasting impression can really make an event.”

Please log in to post comments.