Corporate, association and other event planners face the question of how to hire professional speakers -- entertainers, industry experts, business leaders, athletes and others -- to serve as keynote speakers and emcees, or present at general sessions, etc.
This is probably one of the more critical aspects of event planning for large annual meetings. And planners are well-served to work with a speakers bureau to rely on the expertise and relationships they offer.
Diane Goodman, president of The Goodman Speakers Bureau, Inc., Windsor, CT, has been helping organizations secure speakers since 1979. She is a recognized leader in this industry, and works with national and international corporate and association meetings and conventions, among others.
Diane and her staff build close relationships with professional speakers of all backgrounds and styles, including Keith Harrell, Barbara Corcoran, Sue Ershler, and Tony Alessandra, to name just a few. These relationships are crucial to helping recommend the most appropriate speaker for any occasion.
Diane feels that every meeting and event really is unique with its own objectives, themes, audience, and more. She believes that the selection of a professional speaker or entertainer should be carefully matched to each occasion – maximizing an investment in a speaker and making the event as memorable as possible.
Diane shared some of her perspectives on hiring a professional speaker with me to help shed light on how planners can be more strategic when dealing with speakers:
Diane, you feel that speakers add value and significance to meetings of all sizes. Can you identify the three biggest contributions that an outside speaker brings to a business meeting?
- Information. Oftentimes corporate events are held to keep executives, salespeople, or others up-to-date on industry trends, strategies, or future projections. Having an informed speaker that can provide insight and ideas in memorable ways meets this need.
- Experience. Many professional speakers use personal experiences to educate or motivate audiences. It leaves an indelible impression on people when the listen to Yossi Ghinsberg describe how he survived two weeks alone, lost in the Amazon. Similarly, audiences don’t soon forget seeing a military team from Afterburner Seminars “paratroops” into an auditorium ready to lead an executive “boot camp.”
- Entertainment. Speakers of all subjects have to engage their audiences. They want to be listened to and remembered, so they use entertaining styles and tactics. This does not mean they break into a comedy routine, but they inject humor or drama or other elements that are appropriate. There are times when “pure” entertainers are the best fit for a meeting, such as hiring the Capital Steps to perform during lunch or using Bill Herz or Wayne Cotter to kick off or emcee an event.
Securing the best professional speaker definitely generates a lot of internal executive attention. In your experience, what is the biggest challenge that event planners face when selecting speakers?
Planners will be most successful with speaker selection if they know two things for absolute certain: the objective of the meeting and the importance of the outside speaker to the overall success of the meeting.
I always, always recommend planners meet with executives well before starting a search for a speaker to determine those two crucial elements. Bringing internal executives into the process early gets everyone on the same page and avoids wasting time going in the wrong direction.
I also recommend speakers get executive input in writing – which forces executives to really think about input they are providing and gives planners a meaningful starting point.
And, if the executive firmly states that a speaker will make or break a meeting, it becomes top priority for everyone to bring in the best speaker available to you.