Treat Your Event Speaker Right

So you’ve decided to get a speaker for your organization or event. Excellent! Now, how can you ensure it’s the best experience for everyone?

1. Evaluate Your Speaker In Advance

Sometimes the best names don’t make the best speakers. Some people are very good at what they do and hopeless at speaking about it. I suggest, if at all possible, listen to your speaker before you invite him or her to your event. This gives you a chance to evaluate if he or she is right for your group. Is he interesting? Is she clear? Does his voice irritate you? Does she stay within the time allotted, or does she ramble and talk too long?

All these things are difficult or impossible to judge from websites or speaker promotional materials. If you absolutely can’t listen yourself, get a referral from someone you trust. Nothing kills an event like the wrong speaker.

2. Speaker Bios

Every speaker should have one, and you definitely should request it in advance. If he doesn’t send one, or it’s not professional, that’s a red flag. If it’s too long, ask her to shorten it. If it doesn’t include the kind of details your organization wants (like, do you want a bit more of a personal touch?), ask the speaker if he’s willing to revise it.

And it’s your responsibility as the host to have it printed out and ready. A good speaker should have a back-up copy available in a pinch, but make sure you have it. If you forget to read the bio, you’re depriving the speaker of a vital introduction, and you make everyone wonder who forgot it. You or the speaker? Neither makes you look good.

3. Arrive Early To Meet Your Speaker

Good speakers show up early, as much as 15-30 minutes. We need to check out the space, set up and test audio-visual equipment and generally get ready. I like to look for a visible clock and adjust where I’ll be standing based on its location. Please have someone there to greet him or her and provide what everyone needs to make the event run smoothly.

If your speaker arrives just in time or, worse, late, don’t use him or her again. It’s unprofessional and makes you look bad. Let the referring party or organization know what happened.

4. Timing of Presentation

Please make the timing clear in advance. If you give a speaker 15 minutes, please don’t cut it to 10 at the last minute. Yes, we should all be able to be flexible with our presentations, but most of us plan for a particular amount of time, and it’s disrespectful to make us adjust it on the fly without a darned good reason.

On the other hand, some speakers don’t know when to stop. If you get one who is long-winded, don’t hesitate to cut him or her off. Do it respectfully, but do it. Your audience has an expectation of when an event will end. Don’t make them wait around because your speaker wasn’t prepared.

In case you hadn’t guessed, I’ve had each of these go wrong for me, either as a speaker or as an event organizer. When selected and treated correctly, a good speaker can make your event pop. And a bad one can make it flop. Do what you can to make it a good experience for everyone.

Anyone else want to add your own experiences to the list?

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4 Responses to “Treat Your Event Speaker Right”

  1. Yeah, boring speakers on a great subject. I’ve had that happen. It’s excruciating for everyone, and the person who recommended the speaker is now in a position of her credibility at evaluating speakers called into question.

  2. Ari Herzog says:

    You forgot to include the cost factor.

    I was invited to speak at an out-of-state conference — and shame on me for not asking up front if there were payment terms whereby I’d be subsidized the costs of transportation, lodging, etc.

    When the answer came back as a negative, or under certain conditions, my heart sank when I realized the costs would outweigh my wanting to participate.

    If someone really wants a speaker, that someone should do everything possible to get the person there.

  3. Juli Monroe says:

    Excellent point, Ari. I did forget that one. I have a friend who was asked to speak at a conference, and not only did she have to pay her own way, but she had to pay the conference registration fee as well! I just call that speaker abuse.

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