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For Meeting Planners: How To Get Full Value From Your Speaker

How To Get Full Value From Your Speaker , article for Meeting Planners

by Jim Cathcart

See Also: (Here’s What Jim Will do For You)

If your speaker truly is a valuable resource and you’ve gone to all this trouble to get him/her ready to do a proper job for you, then perhaps there are several ways to utilize the speakers’ resources on the day of his/her appearance.

In 41+ years of speaking before more than 3,100 audiences I’ve encountered most all of the difficulties that a speaker can encounter. I’ve been spared a few disasters like having audience members pass away during my presentation, but overall I would say I’ve met most of the challenges. Through my contacts with a lot of very wise meeting planners, audience members and other speakers, I’ve identified some of the best strategies for eliminating the problems and/or dealing with them as they arise. A description of them follows.

Just How Much Can a Speaker Do?
A meeting planner asked me sometime ago if I could do five presentations on one day and three more the following day, all presentations before different audiences, but on exactly the same subject. When I started my speaking career I would have answered eagerly, “Yes!,” but wisdom and experience have taught me differently.

What a speaker does in front of an audience requires just about as much energy within a one hour time frame, as a typical eight hour day working in an office. With that in mind there aren’t many quality performances possible from one speaker in a given day. I’ve found that for me, even though I have a rather high energy level, I’m only at my best for about three separate presentations per day. It’s interesting to me that a speech presentation is similar in many ways to jet travel. The airplane uses up the majority of its fuel on take-off and once it’s airborne can cruise for tremendous distances without burning up an excessive amount of fuel.

I figure I’m capable of three quality “take-offs” per day. The length of each presentation can vary from 30 minutes to three hours, but it’s the take-offs that burn up the energy. Each time I’m with a new audience I have to go through a psychological process with them to shift their thinking to where we need it to be. Also, I need to raise their energy to a highly receptive level so that they will absorb all of the information I am bringing and participate, as necessary, in the program.

Suggestion: Talk with your speakers, ask them what they feel they’re capable of in a day at maximum energy. You might be able to get them to do more than the optimum number of presentations in a day, but in doing so you would be cheating yourself and your audience. After most of the good energy is burnt up, the speaker will be giving only token performances for the remaining audiences. Your audiences deserve more than that and so do your speakers. It’s usually better to assemble your audiences all together and have your speaker address them as one overall group rather than breaking them up into sub-groups and repeating the presentations again and again. The larger the group, usually the more powerful the impact the speaker can have on the audience.

What Comes First . . . The Speech Or The Seminar?
If your speaker is doing more than one presentation, schedule the main event first. In other words, give your speaker a chance to speak to the largest percentage of your audience first so as to establish rapport, to psychologically orient the audience to the speaker’s way of thinking and familiarize the audience with the speaker’s material. Then if you offer a seminar by the same speaker, the audience will already feel connected to the speaker, be eager to attend the breakout session and able to ask more well-educated questions during the seminar. This also puts the speaker at ease and allows the speaker to enter the seminar with a lot more preparation.

It’s also important, if you’re scheduling some guest appearances by your speaker, to have the main event before the guest appearances. In this way everyone gets a sense of contact with the speaker and they look forward to having one-to-one access to that speaker during the appearances later on. Personally, I don’t “do cocktail parties” very well. People always ask, “What will you be speaking about?” Then they want a preview of the upcoming speech. I prefer to give my presentation to the group first and then attend the social events. In that way the dialogue flows naturally from my presentation, instead of centering around who I am and what I do. It’s also a good idea to require as little as possible from your speaker prior to the main event. In this way the speaker is fresh and prepared and able to give you 100 percent.

If Your Program Runs Overtime, Whose Time Do You Cut?
Let’s say your program starts late, for any of the many reasons we all encounter in conventions, and you have a high priced, well-known celebrity whom you booked so that the room would be full of people and an interesting presentation would be received. Immediately after the high priced celebrity you have a professional speaker who was brought in to accomplish a specific objective through his/her presentation; i.e. building their confidence in the face of challenges, opening them up to new ideas, giving them a different point of view, making them feel special because of their good performance, etc.

If the program is overtime, whose time do you cut? I’d suggest you cut the celebrity’s time.

The reason for this is that the celebrity offers the most value to you simply by showing up. Their name will draw people to the event and cause people to enroll, their presence will fill the room and their presentation will give the audience a special feeling that you have done something wonderful for them. If the amount of time they speak is reduced, it does not necessarily diminish their impact on your audience.

However, if the time allotted to the professional speaker is reduced, he/she may not be able to still accomplish the original goal for their presentation. Unlike the celebrity, their value is not received by who they are or the fact that they’re there, instead the value from a professional speaker is received from what he/she does and how they do it.

Get People Ready To Hear Your Speaker
Something that can be done to increase the impact of your speaker is a “pre-introduction.” A pre-introduction could be one statement or an entire process. It consists of such things as publishing some articles by the speaker in your company emails or publications in advance of the meeting. This begins the orientation process of your audience to the message of your speaker. You can also begin to incorporate products, i.e., books, audios, online messages, etc. from your speaker into your training or company meetings in advance of the convention so that the people feel a sense of identity with the speaker and by the time he/she arrives at your convention they will enjoy celebrity status. This makes their appearance even more special to those who are attending. Another method for the pre-introduction would be to distribute a recording or a copy of the book written by the speaker in advance of the meeting. This allows the speaker to streamline his/her presentation to get directly to how the ideas he/she will present will impact the people in the audience. Many will bring their book to the event for an autograph.

Why Not Get Full Dollars Worth?
It seems a real shame to spend all the time that’s necessary to: orient a speaker to your organization, familiarize them with your products and services, introduce them to your people, educate them about the business you’re in, and then have them depart immediately after their presentation never to be seen or heard again by your group.

If your speaker truly is a valuable resource and you’ve gone to all this trouble to get him/her ready to do a proper job for you, then perhaps there are several ways to utilize the speaker’s resources on the day of their appearance. In many cases, the increase in costs will be so small that it will cost significantly less than bringing in another speaker even at a lower fee. Here is what we do: When I’m booked for a keynote presentation, I immediately start reviewing the convention agenda with the meeting planner in order to determine if there might be workshops, seminars, or breakout sessions which I might be able to conduct. If we can schedule a seminar after the keynote speech the chances are good that the seminar will be full and the people will be eager to attend.

In addition to that, while I’m on site I can meet with a specially selected group for coaching or advanced discussion. For example, I can meet with the top salespeople to help them refine their skills even further, or I might even meet with some of the salespeople or managers who are having problems to help them solve some of the problems and overcome their challenges. All of this without my client scheduling any extra travel or incurring any extra expenses. One trip, one hotel room, one orientation process yields multiple benefits.

Any time you hire a speaker, you deserve to get a great deal of value from that person. These ideas should help you work with your speakers in such a way that they have the maximum possible impact on your audience and provide the greatest possible service to your organization.

Have a great meeting!

Jim Cathcart