Once you book a speaker, it might be tempting to “set it and forget it.” But a happy speaker, who wants to be a part of the experience and take their work to a higher level, is to your benefit. Aside from networking, speakers are often what attendees look forward to most.
Most speakers don’t want to be micromanaged. They are professionals who know what they’re doing. But there’s a craft to the event professional and speaker relationship. In many ways, managing event speakers is like managing any other partner: the key is to ask them what they want (and listen), empathize with their needs and communicate your expectations clearly. Let’s take a look at the 12 most effective ways to keep your speakers happy.
1. Make sure they are the right fit for the audience
A good relationship starts with the right fit. As you hunt for a speaker, don’t just go after a big name or whoever is most available (or who says yes first). Do some research, come up with a list much longer than the actual roster, and then identify your top targets. Are their presentations online? Check them out to make sure their style and content is what you’re looking for. The first time you hear them speak should be long before they step up to your microphone. The more research and digging you do, the more you’ll be able to find a speaker who is talented, motivated and a good fit for your audience.
For tips on finding the right event speaker, take a look at this post.
2. Don’t squeeze value out of them
With speakers, you get what you pay for. If you can prioritize speakers in your budget, it’s a worthwhile investment. If you book speakers on a discount (or a speaker who wants to come only for the networking), your quality might suffer. If you want quality, you have to value it accordingly and make the right investment. The result will be speakers who feel valued and invested in a good outcome.
One-on-one interaction with your audience is often the cherry on top. Do you want your speaker to attend a group lunch? Maybe they can stick around after the Q&A so that audience members can have an opportunity for face time. Talk through these options with your speakers and be willing to compensate them for these extras if necessary.
3. Put together a fact sheet or handbook
Once you’ve established a lineup of speakers, start the process off right by collecting everything you need to communicate into one place. Things to include: a summary of the event, audience details, specs on the venue, breakdown of the other speakers (to make sure they think about how to differentiate if need be), travel and hotel info. If there’s a Q&A session or any other engagements after the presentation, make sure you communicate those details and expectations as well.
4. Proactive and consistent communication
Check in with your speakers far in advance, and then re-check-in a few times after that. Try to anticipate their needs before they do: travel, hotel/AirBnB near the venue, any updates from the other speakers as far as content. Get them set up with the event app: create their speaker profile and send to them for review. Make sure to ask if there is anything they need. That way, you have plenty of time to address any concerns or requests.
Keep in mind: most speakers have assistants who handle logistics and scheduling. Make sure you’re introduced to them and have their contact info. You don’t want to be left sending emails to an address where they won’t be read. Keep this point person in the loop on any changes in terms of venue, capacity and attendance. Give them clear deadlines for providing details like headshots and bios. Then proof those things with them; give them deadlines for feedback on those as well.
5. Consider hotel accommodations
Will you have a room block which your speakers can book into? If not, make sure they book lodging near the venue. This will prevent potential logistical headaches before they begin.
6. Keep a respective distance when it comes to content
While you want to understand your guest of honor’s goals, don’t pry too much on the specifics of your speaker’s presentation or ask to review their slides. You hired them to do a job, so trust them to do it.
7. Let them in on the marketing plan
A good speaker knows that when they promote the overall event, they are ultimately promoting their own presentation. So you shouldn’t have to include a certain number of tweets or promotions in the contract. But make sure you give them the hashtag well ahead of time, retweet them and tag them in your promotions.
Also, see if they’re interested in joining forces for short videos, articles, podcast episodes and all of your other content marketing before, during and after the event. Chances are, you and your speaker share a similar audience. It’s a win-win for you and the speaker.
8. Be ready with onsite tech
There’s nothing worse than counting down the minutes to a presentation while scrambling to replace a faulty HDMI cable. Make a checklist of every tech-related item you need beforehand, or hire someone you absolutely trust to take care of this for you. We have a guide here, but also recommend our friends at Endless Events for any AV need. If you’re using your event app to do live polling, quizzes, or surveys, make sure everything is tested and communicated to the speaker and audience beforehand.
9. Give them a little privacy
Set aside a private room or area for your speakers to collect themselves at the event. They might not choose to take advantage of it, but it’s a good idea to have. If a band or stand up comedian comes to a venue to perform, they’re always given space backstage or in a greenroom. Your speakers will appreciate it if you treat them similarly.
10. Make the right introduction
Make sure you plan each introduction beforehand. Find someone who will get the crowd excited and who understands the speaker’s value. If they can make a room laugh, even better. Speakers love a great, thoughtful introduction.
11. Smooth out the Q&A
Make sure you have a plan for the Q&A. Have a general sense of how many questions, how much time, and who will facilitate questioning. If it’s done with microphones, have a couple of folks who are quick on their feet. You can also consider handling the Q&A via your event app which helps to create a more seamless process. Nothing will kill the energy in the room like waiting for someone to run around with a microphone.
12. Feedback, feedback feedback
A good speaker relationship can last far beyond one event. If they do a good job, let them know. Share direct quotes from the audience that you collected in your surveys — every speaker will appreciate that. Thank them for their work and leave the door open for future events. As a planner it’s a good idea to develop a network of relationships that you can pull from in the future.
Remember: speakers have a lot of experience with events, and they know a well-prepared planner when they see one. If you follow these steps, they’ll feel valued, happy and willing to go the extra mile for you — at your next event, and events in years to come.
Want more insider info on event speaker management or any other event need? At MeetingPlay, we are experienced event professionals, ready to put our expertise to work at your next event. Contact us for a free demo and talk to a MeetingPlay expert today.