Searching for a keynote speaker for a meeting or event could be compared with a theatrical production: It involves many players and can be full of adventure, exploration, excitement, and, perhaps a little heartbreak.
Behind the scenes of the drama are the meeting planner and the speakers bureau. First they’re working to define the purpose, timing, and audience of the event. From there, they move on to recommending the cast (i.e., speakers) who could take center stage at the event. Usually the production concludes with a successful keynote and happy clients. Sometimes, however, the drama—which can take days or weeks—unfolds this way:
Scene One: The Inquiry
Meeting Planner calls Speakers Bureau. Energy levels are high.
Meeting Planner: We have the go-ahead to planour Leaders Meeting at that new resort in Vail, Colo. We need the perfect speaker to empower our corporate leaders, executives, and management team. This is a hugely important event and we need you to begin the search immediately!
Speakers Bureau: Wonderful! Can you tell me the exact purpose of the event? Do you have a date? Who is attending? Tell me something about your company’s culture. What professional speakers has your group enjoyed in the past?
Planner and Bureau discuss these and other event details, and the bureau begins to consider the possibilities. Everything is going well.
Bureau: So, how many people are involved in the decision? Who has the final say? What can you tell me about that person’s likes, dislikes, hobbies, or interests? Any phobias?
Planner: My supervisor gave me this task. We will secure internal approvals.
Phone call ends. Bureau begins the official search, gathering bios, videos, books, and other details on several possible speakers. Bureau and Planner work via e-mail, phone, and sometimes even in person to go through materials.
Scene Two: The Surprise
Bureau calls Planner.
Bureau: What are your thoughts on the speakers we’ve proposed?
Planner: These are great speakers. My supervisor loves them and we are all happy! Now, we will show the list to the company president. Hehas decided he wants to be involved.
Scene Three: The Heartbreak
Planner calls Bureau.
Planner: Uh, the president wants to book Coach Jones. You know, the one who led an inner-city teamof badminton players to the Olympics?
Bureau:Yes, we know of him, but have never heard him speak since he’s so new on the scene. And his fees are twice your budget.
Planner:Well, the president said his golf buddy heard him speak last week. He wants him at any cost.
Bureau: OK, we canresearch the details, butI don’t think this coach hasany videos or speaking materials to review. You would be going in a little blind.
Planner: Actually, I asked Jim in sports marketing to secure him for us. But thanks, anyway.
Scene Four: The Lesson
So the tragedy unfolds. Despite an earlier attempt by the bureau to learn who the decision-maker was and if he or she had anyone in mind, the attempt was foiled by the unknown.
And the drama is not over, as the speaker still has to be secured,need to be drawn up, and unforeseen emergencies (such as flight delays or illness) have to be managed. Jim in marketing has his work cut out for him.
Then there is the fate of the event itself to consider. The speaker may tell a great story, but is he or she adding value to the stated purpose of the Vail trip? Will meeting attendees benefit from the message beyond an hour of being entertained? Additionally, will Jim suggest that the company fully leverage its investment in the speaker by having a Q&A session with him, asking him to attend a VIP breakfast, or otherwise maximizing his time in Vail?
To achieve the best ending to the speaker-selection drama, savvy meeting planners learn ahead of time who the final decision-makers are, and if they have any speaker preferences. Before contacting a speakers bureau, they know the true budget, expectations, and desires of all decision-makers. While some of this may change along the way, experienced planners work with the bureau to adjust as needed. In the end, the bureau partners with them throughout the planning, execution, and followup phases to ensure a successful event—and thus a happy ending. Bravo!
For more than 30 years, the Goodman Speakers Bureau has provided guidance on professional speakers for its clients. Contact Diane Goodman at (800) 875-2893 or firstname.lastname@example.org.