Choosing the Perfect Opening Convention Speaker
As an event
planner you have a lot of balls in the air – everything from venue selection to
AV set-up to accommodations to choosing the perfect speaker to launch that
Sometimes, event planners overlook the importance of selecting the perfect opening speaker given all of the other items on the “to-do” list, but your opening speaker kicks off the event and sets the tone for all the activities that follow. Critical. So, how do you find the perfect opening speaker? Here are 5.5 tips to ensure a successful search.
1. Talk to the candidates on your short list. The best speakers are registered with a variety of speaker bureaus, and the best speakers have assistants. As the event planner, don't simply speak to the bureau head or the speaker's assistant.
Speak to the speaker. A short phone call is typically all you need. You want to know more about these professionals - their experience, their needs, their expectations of you and, of course, their style of presentation to get that convention off on the right foot. You want someone with a high likability factor. You want participates to say, "That was great. I'm really glad I came."
You also want to feel that energy, enthusiasm and get a sense of the speaker's use of humor to fully engage your attendees. It doesn't take long to determine if this is the right speaker for your convention but it's an essential step in getting the best speaker for your event.
2. Move "Choose an opening speaker" to the top of your priority list.
Professional speakers - the ones you want at your event - are often booked months in advance so getting started with your speaker search should be a top priority.
Move the vetting process to the top of your list to ensure you have the broadest selection of the best candidates. You don't want the "best" speaker, you want the best speaker for your event.
3. Review samples and see what others have to say.
Professional speakers know the value of good marketing so you'll always find video clips of them on their web sites and YouTube.
Good keynoters know that event planners want to see how speakers interact with the audience and they'll have lots of samples of their work, from the American Beekeepers' Bash to the last Fortune 500 event at which they spoke. Always try before you buy.
Look at both video and written testimonials from meeting planners just like you. What do they have to say? Where has the speaker spoken before? Check out Speakerwiki for audience reviews of the speaker you're considering.
4. Ask about the speaker's experience within your event attendees' expertise.
A good opening speaker for a medical convention doesn't have to be a doctor. In fact, put an MD on stage to kick off the event and chances are half the audience will doze off during the two-hour presentation (complete with slide show) after that heavy breakfast.
Good opening speakers take the time to research the interests and challenges of any audience. Your opening speaker will be well versed in motivating and engaging any audience to prepare attendees to absorb the information they'll gather over the next few days. Good opening speakers use audience interaction, engaging activities, energy and humor to create a positive audience mind set.
The perfect opening speaker understands the industry, the specialties, the needs and wants of attendees, and prepares these men and women for what's coming up. It's much more important to find a professional opening speaker who motivates and challenges than one who simply re-hashes what the audience already knows.
5. Get a solid ROI from your opening speaker.
The opening speaker you select is an investment in the overall success of your event. There's the speaker's fee, accommodations, travel costs and other expenses associated with hiring a professional opening speaker. But...
...that opening speaker creates a positive mind-set among attendees. And the good ones - the ones who've spoken at hundreds of trade associations, company conventions and public venues - may cost more than an industry insider but there's a reason for that. Professional speakers know how to grab the attention of listeners, how to keep them engaged with energy, humor and a solid message that will resonate long after the speaker leaves the stage.
Select a speaker who "gets it," one who understands his or her role to inject enthusiasm, energy, motivation and humor to kick off the event. These professionals deliver a positive return on your investment by creating an exciting atmosphere that lasts throughout the entire event.
If your first priority in hiring an opening speaker is cost, chances are you won't find the perfect kick-off keynoter. Good speakers understand audience dynamics and they know how to prepare themselves and your attendees for the upcoming opportunities that will take place over the course of the event.
5.5 Ask what else the speaker can do for you at the event.
Ask the speaker if they could do a break-out program for you too. Would they be able to attend the dinner the night before? Could they serve as an emcee? Do they have some great products they can make you a special deal on? Can the speaker stay for lunch or do a book signing? Almost anything is possible if you ask.
So, interview the prospects personally to develop your short list, start early with the search process, watch clips that demonstrate a prospect's talent and speaking style, ask questions about preparation and get the best ROI from the speaker you select to open your event.
That's how to find the best opening speaker for any event. And isn't that what you want?
Have a question for Chip? Ask or leave a comment below!