A well selected guest speaker brings a wealth of benefits to an event – they can educate, inspire, entertain - they can attract interest and increase attendance.
But they are also a significant investment on your behalf, so it’s vital to make the most of their appearance and ensure the greatest level of return. Here’s our guide on how to do just that.
Make sure they’re the right fit
Although it should be a major consideration in your selection process, hosting a successful speaker does not simply come down to how good they are at what they do. It comes down in large part to your ability to select the right speaker to appeal to your audience and support your event goals.
You should have spent time building up a detailed profile of your audience – their demographics, their likes and dislikes. Keep their preferences at the forefront of your mind when choosing your speaker. After all, it’s your audience to whom they need to appeal.
You should also have clearly defined objectives for your event and your guest speakers are a major vehicle for helping you achieve those so it’s vital that they understand them, are on board and willing to champion your message. Many speakers come with their own story to tell but however well delivered and motivational these may be, if they don’t tie in with and support your own narrative, they’re not the right fit for your event.
Start on the same page
If you’ve selected your speaker to align with your overall event goals then there’s probably already a shared understanding of the direction you wish to take. But don’t take that for granted. Communicate clearly in the planning stages to ensure that you start, and remain, on the same page.
This communication should include a detailed overview of your objectives, in particular, the key takeaways you want to present to your audience. It should also include the audience profile you’ve created of your attendees. This knowledge will allow your speaker to tailor their session to the best fit possible.
You should also ensure that you both share the same vision of their presence at your event. What are you expecting of them and, in return, what requirements do they have? This is particularly important when considering their AV and technical needs. Make sure they have all they need on hand to allow them to present to full affect.
Foster a connection with your audience
We naturally respond in a more positive manner to people that we can relate to, so try to foster a connection between your audience and speaker. When creating bios, keep the content relevant and relatable. Your aim here is to build interest in and anticipation for your event, not to give your audience a detailed history of your speakers’s life and accomplishments. Of course, anything that gives them credibility in terms of your event topic is important but, if it doesn’t tie in, leave it out.
Also, don’t rely on their credentials to be enough to engage your audience. Demonstrate why those credentials are important, the value they will add to your event and, ultimately, the value they will add to the experience of your attendees. Above all, compliment their credentials with a human touch such as a relevant life experience – this will allow your audience to relate to your speaker and make them more willing to engage with their session content.
Your speakers are an integral part of your event and their sessions will be a major draw for many of your attendees, so it goes without saying that you should be promoting their appearance. But also consider the possibility of cross-promotion – are your speakers willing to publicise your event through their own marketing channels?
If they are well established, it’s likely that they will have a large social media following and, if they are willing to endorse your event on their feeds, there’s a whole new level of exposure available. They may also be willing to participate in pre-event interviews or the production of teaser videos that not only promote their own appearance, but spark anticipation for your event as a whole. All cross-promotion should be seen as mutually beneficial, after all, the better publicised your event, the better the exposure for your speaker.
Collect relevant feedback
The only people that can truly determine the success of your speakers are your audience. Only they know how much of a connection was established and what lasting impression was made. So be sure to gather well-structured feedback from them.
Consider carefully what outcomes you are looking to achieve from your speaker sessions, and how you would measure the success of each, to compile constructive feedback questions. The information gathered will not only allow you to assess the success of the speaker session in question, but will provide a highly useful reference in the planning stages of future events.
Conduct constructive debriefs
A working relationship has now developed between you and your speaker, so constructive debrief sessions that are beneficial to both parties should be par for the course. Offering your own thoughts and feedback, as well as that gathered from your audience, will allow your speakers to improve on their own performance but in return, you should welcome feedback on your own involvement – did the speaker feel they were fully prepared? Did they have all the relevant information and were they offered sufficient support?
Successful sessions are not simply a question of securing an experienced, high profile speaker held to acclaim within your industry sector. They are a two way working relationship that requires planning, organisation and communication.
By following the simple blueprint above, you can ensure that both you and your speaker get the most from your shared experience and that you leave your audience with a lasting message that brings about the desired change in the aftermath of your event.
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