As I was thinking back on 2018 I realized that this year is the 35th anniversary of a milestone event that rocked the speaking industry; something that’s not been repeated since. If you were in the industry back in 1983, you’ll remember just how profoundly things changed.
"BILL WALTON is as good on stage as a speaker as he was on the court as a player. My client, the donors, and guests were completely blown away,” said the organizer from the Utah Clean Air Partnership fund-raiser. The email went on, "To be honest, our board of directors questioned my recommendation of Bill as the keynote speaker. After the event, they apologized for questioning me...profusely. We are not sure how we will top Bill's passion and the memorable delivery he gave at next year's event.”
As anyone who has been booking speakers for events can readily attest, the speaking industry can be one very confusing space to navigate to the outsider. Those of us on the inside are used to it, but if you only step into this world a few times a year, making sense of how things work can be a daunting prospect. As someone who’s been involved in bringing talent and audiences together for my entire career, I thought I’d offer up a few essential insights that would be useful to corporate event planners - both novice and veterans alike.
A career as a speakers' bureau agent After 40+ years as an agent in the speaking industry, I now manage a small group of top experts who speak. In my new life, I work with most speakers’ bureaus on a regular basis. They often ask me if I know someone who'd make a great agent. Sometimes I do - but most times I don't.
This is the last in my series on avoiding disaster when booking event speakers. The idea is for top speakers to talk about their onsite experiences in a way that provides some useful lessons and reminders. Ideally, their insights will find their way into your event planning checklist.
THE DRAMA-FREE WAY OF BOOKING EVENT SPEAKERS Choosing a speaker for an important event can become a frustrating experience. There are so many choices it can become difficult to know how to sift through them all. And then there’s the challenging process of getting all the stakeholders to agree on the candidate.
TIPS FOR YOUR EVENT PLANNING CHECKLIST Taking your time to choose the right speaker is a great first step to a successful outcome. After that, a well-planned pre-event call, about 3-4 weeks in advance of your program, will make certain your speaker has the best chance to shine and meet your objectives.
In my previous life as a speakers’ agent for top keynote speakers, I worked with a well-known non-fiction author whose name you would know; someone really well respected. That author did a lot of speaking on the strength of impressive book sales; multiple #1 New York Times bestsellers. The author was a good speaker. I say “good” because rarely was the sponsoring organization disappointed with the speech – but the author never got an emphatic, “That was great!” reaction from the event planner. When I would go to see this author speak, I loved the content but would come away a bit disappointed because the speech was read…word for word…while looking up occasionally.
The Stress-Free Event Photo Opp A photo with your celebrity entertainer or big name speaker is a lasting treasure for your event guests. Of course, like much of everything else in the live events business, there's only one chance to get it right. Earlier in my career, I was on the road with many high-stakes principals. I would run as many as five event photo opps a week for anywhere from 20 to 200 people. Feedback from the event planners on site was always so positive - they appreciated the process I used which made the whole experience much more manageable for everyone concerned. It’s in that spirit that I thought I would share the details of this photo opportunity plan, which incorporates the best aspects I’ve seen used by the high-stakes figures whose staffs had honed this to a fine art. I hope this event planner advice is a useful addition to your event planning checklist.
TAKE CONTROL OF THE CONTENT/MESSAGE How can you generate maximum impact from the outside speakers at your next meeting or conference? How can you make sure the speakers’ insights are relevant and focused on what matters most to your audience? In my years helping event planners wrestle with that challenge, I have found there is sometimes no substitute for adding an experienced interviewer, discussion leader, or panel moderator. The difference it can make to the quality of the content delivery can be sizable.