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Speaker ROI

How to choose the best speakers and get the best from the speakers you choose

By Sherryll Sobie

The right speaker can add magic and energy to an event or conference. Alternatively, when a speaker and a group are mismatched, the silence and side-glances can be palpable. But the popularity of having someone speak at an event to create a buzz and increase attendance shows no signs of slowing down.

According to Cynthia Richards, president, Event Spectrum Inc. (ESI), a 12-year-old meeting planning and event management company based in Toronto, 80 per of cent events planned include a speaker. “The number is growing,” Richards adds, as more clients connect the dots between the right keynote and the ROI of the meeting.

Speakers today, who typically command anywhere from $5,000 to $15,000 (and more), should fit the corporate culture like a custom tailored suit, and deliver speeches that are deftly stitched together with meaningful, useful and personalized tips. Otherwise, they simply won’t measure up.

A tall order, perhaps, but doable when meeting planners employ a thoughtful approach.  “We need to drill down to understand the client’s objectives,” Richards says. “Clarity brings confidence.” Speaker agency experts agree. “The more you know what you want, the more likely you are to get it,” says David Lavin, president, David Lavin Agency. “It’s like being a matchmaker.”

ESI’s Cynthia Richards, along with David Lavin, Kelly MacDonald, partner and senior vice president of Speakers Spotlight (who Richards uses), and Theresa Beenken, vice president, National Speakers Bureau weigh-in with their thoughts.

Choosing the best speaker
Kelly MacDonald: Determine what it is you are trying to achieve. Is it an overarching objective for the entire event, or do you need a speaker for just one targeted session?
Theresa Beenken: Think about placement. Do you want a thought-provoking opening or an upbeat closing?
David Lavin: What do you want the audience to think, feel or do when they leave the room? Determine if the speaker will deliver on these outcomes.
Cynthia Richards: A face-to-face meeting with potential speakers is critical.

Getting the best from the speaker you choose
Lavin: Pick up them up at the airport. This is important face-time, and can put the speaker at ease.
MacDonald: Meeting planners should encourage speeches that follow a recent trend to blur the line between professional and personal. The audience is made up of people who are not just corporate execs: they are parents and siblings and friends. They bring their whole selves to work and appreciate an inclusive approach.
Beenken: Do a proper introduction. In no more than 90 seconds clearly state the speaker’s credentials and their connection to the overall objective. If not well executed, the speaker will spend extra time and effort drawing the crowd into the fold.

Compounding ROI
Lavin: Be open-minded. Event planners always think in terms of celebrities, but emerging speakers can be a really good deal and leave a lasting impression.
MacDonald: Whether you’re working with a celebrity or an unknown, agents can help generate hype with teaser campaigns to attract attendees.
Beenken: Keep the ball rolling. After the event, highlight elements of the speech for further discussion via conference calls, face-to-face strategy sessions, newsletters, and emails.

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