4 No-Cost Ways to Get More From Your Speakers

Author: Don Neal       

Don Neal, founder and CEO, 360 Live Media

How do you get more bang for your buck when hiring paid speakers and recruiting unpaid speakers? The investment is significant for both — paid or unpaid, speakers cost serious time, dollars, and resources.

First of all, create an agreement with all of your breakout speakers. Include clear expectations for how they will deliver for you and have them sign it. I’m not kidding.

For the agreement, here are four things that you might want to consider asking of your speakers:

1. Be a greeter. Have your speakers stand by the door to greet and welcome everyone who comes to their session. Everyone appreciates this, and it costs nothing.

2. Fill in the blanks. Ask each speaker, paid and unpaid, to create a one-page summary of their talk beforehand, leaving up to 10 blank spaces for the audience to fill in while they speak. This creates engagement, suspense, interaction, and better learning for the audience as they follow along, filling in the missing pieces of content on printed-out sheets or on digital forms.

3. Stand by me. Allocate space at each general and breakout session for tire-kickers (who aren’t sure if they want to stay), so they have a place to stand. That space is designated for anyone who wants to audit the session. This creates a good tension for the speaker to keep the audience interested enough to stay and get a seat. Yes, it puts the speaker on the hot seat, but they can handle it. It makes them better, and also costs nothing.

4. Flip the speaker calls. You are paying your speakers a lot, and they work for you. Host a conference call with all of your paid speakers and your event emcee. Ask each speaker to pitch their talk in three minutes to the whole group so you have a congruent program with all of the speakers having context. Let them give feedback to one another. This improves the outcomes of your general session — by a lot.

See how effective some strategic planning can be? I assure you that these four practical ideas will make your next event better, and the cost is minimal to nothing. Let me correct that last statement: The cost is the energy required to change, break the pattern, and take a risk. For each of these ideas, the juice is worth the squeeze.

Don Neal is founder and CEO of marketing, strategy, and experience agency 360 Live Media. This article is the first in a new series called “The Spark,” to be published in the May issue of Convene.