I bet the guests of your event have heard your vice president speak about two gazillion times…
Yup, if you want to really change things up and pique people’s interest, a guest speaker can be the way to go. Often, if you choose wisely, the guest speaker can be the highlight of the whole event, as they’re well trained in presenting and know how to engage an audience.
So how do you go about choosing a guest presenter? Chances are likely you’re working with someone else who’s in charge of content, but here are some things the both of you can think about:
Consider your content – Usually your event has some sort of theme, whether it’s about engaging with your customers, rewarding and recognizing employees, or something else. Consider that theme, and look for someone who’s got content expertise in that area.
Look for entertainment quality – I love to hear a big audience laugh and applaud. You all know what it’s like to go to a concert where the performers are dry and boring. Those folks are so much less interesting than the ones who have a real performance quality about them. Maybe they’re particularly funny, or they have a Liberace-like flamboyance, or a personal story so engaging and heartwarming that you can’t help but lose yourself when they speak. That’s the kind of guest presenter you want.
Look for the emotion! – Just like in Seth Godin’s article, we learn when something affects us emotionally, rather than being hit with facts. A guest speaker with good performance quality can be an excellent place to ramp up that emotion.
Think outside the box when choosing your speaker – I once planned an event where we wanted to convey an idea to our guests that they should navigate obstacles and try that much harder to reach our company’s goal. We could have had someone who talks about making sales quotas, but instead we hired the first North American woman to ever ascend Mt. Everest. Her story was compelling, and she was able to link it back both to our business goals and to our own personal challenges. I’ll never forget her talk!
Choose someone who can reach everyone in your diverse audience – If you’ve got a bunch of retail store managers in the room, it’s probably not a wise idea to have an economist jump into some very detailed charts and start talking about economic theory. Make sure your speaker resonates with your constituency, or you’ll be wasting your money.
Choose someone who’s in your budget – If you have a limited budget, you might not want to go with a speaker agency, as you can end up being charged a lot of money. Frequently, you can find authors and other speakers who aren’t represented. Without the agency taking a cut, they usually come a little cheaper.
Sign a contract and secure your dates – Don’t just shake hands and consider your guest speaker a done deal. Draw up a contract with him or her, and ensure that your date is secure. Make sure it addresses travel and lodging (are you paying for it, or is the cost her responsibility?). Are you video-taping your event? Make sure that’s okay with your guest speaker and, if necessary, put those arrangements in writing.
Prep your speaker with information about your organization – Your speaker should know all your company’s lingo and the ins and outs of what you do. At our company, we call our customers “neighbors” and we made sure our last guest presenter used that term, too!
A guest presenter can really make your event special! Choose your speaker wisely and make sure he blends with the common themes of your event, but, more importantly, make sure that he engages the audience well. Your own executive staff is probably not trained to really grab and entertain an audience, so this is your chance to really make an emotional connection!
Next post: Wednesday, December 18