I was recently recommended by several well known speakers to submit an application to speak at a Multi-speaker event in London at the end of this year.
Having initially thanked each one for the kind recommendation, I read through the event brief, and quickly established WHY they had identified me as a ‘good fit’ for the billing of this event.
I took the time to draft out my response and asked two of those who had kindly referred me, to review this before clicking SEND and submitting my application.
However, over the weekend (2 weeks later) I have received an email advising they have been ‘in-undated’ with speaker applications, and on this occasion I have been unsuccessful.
For many speakers they would have simply accepted this and moved on, not ‘wasting’ any more time on a ‘closed door’. However, having been recommended by some very well known speakers in the industry as being an ‘ideal fit’ and having taken the time to review, research and carefully respond to the brief; I was keen to understand if the brief had somehow significantly changed OR to receive some feedback as to how far off the mark my application had been.
A very polite and efficient Event co-ordinator thanked me for my application and advised that whilst my content sounded ‘Fascinating’ and ‘Well considered’ that:
- The events Director was not certain my military background would be a good fit for this audience.
- They had chosen to select a keynote speaker who was a lecturer from a well known and reputable business school.
I’m MOST grateful of the feedback and wished both the Events team and the future audience a most successful event.
However, it has left me intrigued as to HOW event teams make their speaker selection?
You see, as the ONLY non-Academia Judge for the British Education Awards (for the past 3 years running) I’m all in favour of academia, and confident that whoever they may have chosen will do an exceptional job in educating the audience, based on years of knowledge, background, research and FACTS.
I’m just intrigued as to why my Military background appears to have gone against me, when my entire post military career successes, (including 2 x Global Entrepreneur ‘Big Impact to Business’ Awards AND listed on the UK ‘Clear Business Thinking’ POWER 100) has been born from taking a FRESH look at business from a completely DIFFERENT perspective, through my years as a Specialist Rapid Deployment Soldier.
The audience were NO academics, and the conference theme based on a modern view on leadership – Hence the referral from my fellow speakers! Something I’m very keen to share my thoughts on, having worked within what is considered the world over, as one of the most professional fighting forces in the world.
I’m therefore left to draw the conclusion I FAILED to demonstrate conclusively enough that a DIFFERENT view, a FRESH, NEW way of thinking MIGHT be as impactful as years of research and study. And that an invitation for us BOTH to have shared alternative aspects based on both theory AND practical application may well have offered the audience far more to consider and had a longer lasting impact on them post event!
So, I’ve compiled the 7 things EVERY event organiser ought to consider when choosing a keynote speaker to help both event planners and speaker better work together to ensure every event has as positive an impact as possible.
Choosing a guest speaker for your event is of vital importance because it makes or breaks the success of your conference. Your keynote guest speaker will create value for you by increasing the buzz you’ll need when building your advertising campaign. The entire tone surrounding your event is set by who you choose for your guest speaker(s). This speaker is your advocate and their reputation can boost yours — or not. A quality speaker can impact your results even down at the ticket level.
But, how can you find the right speaker for your next event?
- What to do Before Selecting a Speaker
“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” – Benjamin Franklin.
Regardless of what you are calling your event, the planning and preparation are the keys. Take a moment to watch one of the two documentaries about the disastrous Fyre Festival to see how a lack of planning can lead to the failure of an event.
Dependant on the size and scale of your event, I’d recommended that you start your preparation at least six to twelve months in advance. At the minimum, these arrangements should include knowing your audience, determining the location, selecting a theme, mapping out the event, making a budget and inviting your speakers.
Top Tip While it may be tempting to reach out to long-time experts that you’re familiar with, they may not be the right person for the event. There might be a DRAW towards a well-known house-hold name, but is their message congruent with what you are aiming to achieve, or do you need a new; different perspective?
I’d suggest there are 7 key points to consider:
- Have a clear goal for your speaker
- Explain the logistics and schedule
- Know your audience
- Define success
- Prepare questions
- Negotiate costs
- Don’t compromise
Define Your Aims
Speakers come from all walks of life, with a plethora of experience and expertise. Each individual can offer delegates a range of messages and lessons, meaning no two keynotes or motivational speeches will ever be the same.
Too often, the call from a client has a brief that ‘we are holding an event and looking for a motivational speaker’. The starting place should never be to fill the guest speaker slot, but it should be around what the aim of the event is and, in turn, the goal of the particular session with the speaker.
By starting with the aims, the speaker can be chosen to align directly to this, rather than a name plucked from stories heard of the speaker.
Understand the Flow of The Even
At different stages within an event or conference, the energy of the room fluctuates. Identifying the flow of the event and the specific speaking style that matches this.
To give practical examples of this, the three typical keynote slots at a conference are kick off, after lunch and close of day.
The kick off speaker should be able to outline the big picture, setting the tone and the goals for the day.
The after-lunch speaker, occupying the infamous ‘graveyard slot’ requires energy and dynamism to reignite the delegates post-food.
The closing keynote must be able to pull together the significant messages from the whole day. Importantly, yet often overlooked, they must be the most flexible in their content, as they will have to reflect on and respond to the rest of the delegates.
When selecting a speaker, there are three groups of stakeholders in any decision. The event organiser, the budget holder and, (often forgotten), the audience. This group’s requirements and expectations are the hardest to identify. But if you nail this, the speaker selection and the risk attached to achieving success, suddenly becomes entirely attainable.
Can you measure ROI on an event? Can you measure ROI on a speaker? These questions have been discussed and deliberated over the years by the events industry, despite some strong viewpoints on both sides, for me, the answer is, of course you can.
This might not be in the form of financial revenues, with a clear understanding of your aims and expectations, what you constitute as successful will naturally come and then, you can measure it. Make the speaker aware of this, so you can work together to achieve that ROI. Use tools, whether it’s social media, apps or good old-fashioned questionnaires to ensure you achieve feedback.
Traditionally, ROI measurement is focused on the short term (i.e. a questionnaire as the delegates finish the session) but for true sustained impact also look to measure the long term for the impact of the speaker. Any speaker should embrace these targeted aims, because if they truly believe in the impactful messages they are delivering, they should be comfortable in committing to long-term ROI.
Embrace the Q&A
Ask any delegate what they value most from a keynote speech, more often than not it comes from the questions they get to ask at the end, as this is the content that relates directly to them. Make sure the speaker is flexible with the format of the session and can deliver the unique impact required, irrelevant of the ‘standardised’ format. Work with the speaker and their preferences so they can deliver in an environment that suits them best.
How Much Does a Keynote Speaker Cost?
Make sure you are clear what the overall cost of the speaker is from the outset. The fee quoted for a speaker is entirely theirs and covers both their deliver costs AND preparation time to ensure they provide a ‘killer’ keynote specific to YOU and YOUR audience. (as a general rule for every minute on stage, there has been 10x as much time spent on, researching/preparing the delivery. Ensure you determine if the fee includes speaker expenses or accommodation.
Also, some speakers have specific AV requirements, or riders which might incur additional production costs to you. Compromising on the AV requirements for a speaker might mean that they will not be able to deliver their content to your event successfully, or more likely just add a higher risk of technical hitches, as the speaker doesn’t have the optimal environment to deliver.
Clarify all the costs up front so there are no hidden surprises, and the memories of event itself are not tainted by any issues after.
You are the customer. You are booking the speaker. Don’t compromise on what you first set out to achieve. Be clear about what you are looking for from the speaker and make sure they can deliver all your requirements.
Maybe this be the speaker staying for a meet and greet session, accompanying the delegates for lunch, or conducting an interview for the company’s internal magazine. Lay out your aims clearly, up front, to ensure all your needs are met.
The fees for a speaker are not necessarily based on time but rather on their life experiences and accumulated expertise. These ‘extra’ activities of asking the speaker for lunch, for example, should be seen as an opportunity to leverage the speaker to achieve maximum impact with the audience. So, it is good to remember, you can but ask!
If the speaker can’t meet these requirements, either understand why not and shift your aims to a more realistic level, or else look for an alternative speaker who can deliver you the event and session you aspire to achieve.
Picking the right keynote speaker for your event isn’t as simple as picking a famous name, there is a strategy and process to making sure you get the right person to achieve the aims of your event.
If you follow this process, then you should consistently choose great speakers that have a positive impact on your audience, ticket sales, and retention rates too.
Based on my experience, having been a professional speaker since 2011, and an international award-winning speaker since 2013. I’ve put together a comprehensive guide to help Event planners/managers when putting together any structured event, along with a recommended timeframe as to when things should be completed by in order to ensure you have an AWESOME event.
Simply Click HERE to access your copy.