Professional Speakers: The Ultimate Guide for Meeting and Event Planners

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Today's guest post was written by leadership consultant and speaker Scott Steinberg.

Thinking about hiring a professional speaker for your next business meeting, conference, or event? It may help to understand where expert presenters best fit into keynote schedules, breakout tracks, or larger overarching programs, and how these individuals can maximize audience awareness and empathy.

Several factors are involved in choosing and retaining the services of leading authorities, and best leveraging these practitioners, all of which can weigh into the decision of whether or not to utilize their services. Here are some hints, tips, and strategies for deciding whether to retain a pro keynote speaker for your occasion, how to select the best fit, and how you can ensure the process runs smoothly from end to end.

The Basics: What Professional Speakers Do

Professional speakers appear at events with the specific goal of reinforcing key program themes (i.e., providing “keynote” speeches that cement the tone and topic for the event) and driving positive change and growth in attendees. Common goals they’re tasked with include engendering support and enthusiasm for specific topics or initiatives, ensuring that teams are on the same page, and showing organizations and individuals how to overcome challenges and achieve peak performance. Presenters essentially aim to provide fresh insight and perspective, and provide both a shift in mindset and actionable tools that enable viewers to embrace professional transformations and personal growth.

There are speakers in every field who can deliver inspiring messages in the form of keynote speeches, breakouts, seminars, and workshop sessions. Programs typically touch on a variety of professional topics, from change management to leadership, sales, teamwork, marketing, and more.Often, speakers are subject matter experts, thought leaders, or bestselling authors—credibility is key when establishing audience trust. However, they must be able to leave their egos at the door when delivering presentations. Ultimately, their goal is to help both organizations and individuals by delivering thought-provoking solutions that can help all overcome adversity and improve business practices.

Common types of motivational speakers include:

·      Industry or community thought leaders

·      Bestselling authors and TV presenters

·      Brand-name authorities or celebrities

·      Training and development professionals

·      Futurists and trend experts

Many offer a preset range of presentations to choose from. But to maximize impact, ask for a customized program that’s tailored to incorporate both personalized business insights and the event’s corresponding theme. Presentations that are crafted to match your organization and audience resonate better with attendees, provide better context, and make it possible to provide actionable next steps for audience members.

When weighing the decision to hire an event speaker, take into account the objectives you’re aiming to accomplish, the role that presenters will help play in meeting them, and the shape of the desired presentations. All should be carefully crafted to meet the specific needs of the audience and special occasion. For example, a program designed to provide positive skills transfer for managers should differ greatly from one meant to inspire awareness for brand repositionings or new organizational initiatives.

Maximizing Speaking Programs

All speakers possess their own presentation style, from informative to comical to arresting. In all cases, they must be able to grab and maintain an audience’s attention during a 60- to 90-minute speech, seminar, or lengthier workshop program.

Successful motivational speakers also must always be willing to listen before they speak, getting to know the organizations and key stakeholders, listening to their concerns and challenges, and understanding their marketplace and organizational culture. This enables them to format their speech around these specifics and include stakeholder or audience feedback, heightening viewer empathy and interest. As alluded above, a truly exceptional speaker is also a great researcher and consultant, and will not deliver a generic speech at each event they attend. Such experts will always customize their message to the needs of their client—i.e., the meeting planner—in order to provide maximum value.

While presentation styles differ between speakers, effective presenters will always look to connect with their audience by pairing substance with storytelling. In addition to everyday anecdotes to which attendees can relate, they must incorporate case studies or industry trends into speeches to paint a compelling business picture. But they also must take care not to bombard listeners with facts and figures—instead, they should introduce everyday real-life examples that underscore featured points. This allows presenters to connect with a wider cross-section of individuals, and for these viewers to better comprehend the material.

Speakers should also offer key next steps and strategies for improvement that audience members can act upon immediately when they get home. An effective speaker can help attendees effect ongoing change and circumvent perceived limitations by explaining where to turn next for further research and insight. The best keynote speeches simply serve as a professional stepping stone that helps encourage viewers down a path that they’ll continue to follow for weeks, months, and years hence.

Ways to Best Utilize Speakers

The role presenters will play at your event should be a major part of the decision to retain a professional speaker’s services. Many potential options are available, as are choices about preferred vehicles for participation. Looking to achieve myriad objectives, meeting planners and executives will often opt for a combination of presentation methods  (i.e., keynote and breakout, half-day workshop and master class, lunch speech and panel discussion) as well. This allows them capitalize to on their exclusive on-site access to these authorities.

Common goals for professional speakers frequently include:

·       Setting a positive tone for new programs or ventures, and reinforcing event themes in ways that ultimately prove empowering.

·       Providing authoritative insight into new markets, trends, and topics.

·       Inspiring teams, organizations, and individuals to heightened levels of performance, and driving ongoing growth and development.

·       Engaging and inspiring attendees, helping engender enthusiasm, providing fresh perspectives and insights, and offering an incentive to circumvent perceived limitations.

·       Raising awareness and support for topics, trends, and ventures of rising interest throughout the industry and organization.

·       Educating audiences and delivering positive learning and skills transfer.

Possible program options you might retain speakers to assist with include, but are not limited to:

·       Keynote speeches

·       Breakout sessions

·       Workshops

·       Seminars

·       Question-and-answer sessions

·       After-lunch or after-dinner presentations

·       Training programs

·       Master classes

·       Panels

·       Meet-and-greets

·       Case studies

·       Book signings

Speakers might also be asked to provide addition value-adds in the form of:

·       Newsletters

·       Tip sheets

·       eBooks

·       Podcasts

·       Videos

·       Articles and blog posts

·       Promotional leave-behinds

 

Why Choose a Motivational Speaker?

Are you rolling out new programs, initiatives, or business ventures, or looking to promote heightened awareness for specific topics? A keynote presenter can help solidify and secure organization-wide support for these efforts through inspirational stories and expert advice, or provide crucial insights that allow teams to overcome challenges like never before. The professional speaker you choose to add to your itinerary can be every bit as vital a decision as the theme, venue, and setup.

Wondering where to find a pro keynote presenter, and how to select the best fit for the program? Start by clearly defining a purpose, topic, and vision for your event, then asking professional colleagues and connections for speaking references and recommendations. Don’t just inquire about professionals who routinely give talks on these topics either—specifically look for individuals whose presentations best fit the shape of your programs. Consider audience demographics and the type of speaker most likely to connect with them—e.g., motivational, inspirational, insightful or otherwise—as well.

It’s also important to align speakers and topics with stakeholders’ overall visualizations and expectations for the program up front. To ensure the best fit, you may wish to consider which types of speakers have been successful with these audiences in the past, and contemplate which speakers service both your industry and area. Note that in many cases, a speaker’s bureau (i.e., broker) can aid with selection, and help you manage the process from beginning to end.

Once you’ve chosen the right motivational speaker for your meeting or event, embrace their words of wisdom and advice and encourage your employees to do the same. Think of their services as an investment in your organization’s future. By adopting new ideas and advice from these thought leaders, your business can reach new heights and potential—a partnership made possible through your direct support and effort.

Note from Sue: If you missed it, check out Scott's post last month, 5 Ways to Make Technology Work for Your Events.

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