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What Meeting Planners Expect From Professional Speakers

Leadership expert Michelle Ray helps people and organizations of every description to take the lead, get out of their comfort zones, and develop the willingness to risk. Delivering her powerful message on self-leadership with insight, humour, and passion, Michelle’s engaging, interactive, presentations resonate with a diverse clientele who are seeking to inspire their teams and take personal responsibility for creating their own reality at work, in business and in life. Based on her observations from years of professional speaking, Michelle shares her ideas on what meeting planners need from the professional speakers they hire:

While preparing my presentation set-up for a keynote at a recent conference, the meeting planner ran toward me in a panic, apologizing for being pulled in ten different directions, simultaneously.  She explained that there were several items demanding her immediate attention. Her committee were in a time crunch, trying to locate the whereabouts of one of the panelists due to appear in a morning breakout session. In addition, tensions were building amongst attendees as the registration software was inexplicably malfunctioning, resulting in lengthy line-ups and delays at the welcome booths. Boxes containing sponsors’ promotional materials were missing and presumed lost en route, as the conference facility’s shipping and receiving department and the planner frenetically exchanged text messages. Meanwhile, the banquet manager was waiting for her at the back of the room, needing approval to add seating for the luncheon, in order to accommodate a number of special guests who confirmed their attendance that morning.

As I reflect on the experience, it reminded me of several important factors that contribute to the success of a conference, from the perspective of a meeting planner.  First and foremost, although speakers have the privilege of the performing on the main stage, we are not at the centre of the meeting planner’s universe.  It behooves us to be mindful of their immediate priorities and ultimate objectives.

As the meetings industry rebounds from a highly volatile period, opportunities abound for speakers to contribute to this upward trend. Both parties desire a highly successful outcome for a myriad of business reasons. Ultimately, a meeting is deemed successful when it is profitable; when sponsors and audiences continue to support the event and leave with a strong sense that their investment was worthwhile.  For speakers, however, success is often measured by different criteria that include positive evaluations, standing ovations, spin-off business and opportunities for exposure to new clientele.  We can build stronger partnerships with meeting planners and enjoy more profitable businesses ourselves, by viewing the ROI imperative from a different lens:

1. Deliver on the value proposition

Consider the speaker decision–making process from the meeting planner’s perspective. Their highest priority is to secure an expert who can deliver value for their investment.  As we engage in one or more client conversations prior to an event, our goal is ensure the value proposition in our message aligns with the client’s needs. By investing in our services, planners want to be sure that our message offers value that can be translated into outcomes.

2. Deliver actionable content

There are many ways to deliver a powerful presentation. While it is a given that speakers must possess the ability to hold the attention of an audience, delivering practical, relevant, actionable content is ultimately far more significant  to the meeting planner when evaluating the end result.  While the use of visual aids, story–telling ability and use of humour can undoubtedly enhance the presentation experience for the audience, content that is easily digestible for immediate application is a critical component factored into the ROI equation.

3. Deliver on expectations

The adage “under promise and over deliver” is highly relevant for meeting planners.  It is easy to make promises when everyone is on an emotional high as the conference crescendo builds. When the moment of truth arrives, the true test for the speaker is to not only deliver, but to exceed expectations. Were we a pleasure to work with leading up to and during the event, or did we create additional stress? Meeting professionals will assess the speaker’s contribution and value based on the entire spectrum of interactions before, during and after the event

4. Deliver your whole self

Business relationships thrive on trust, credibility and authenticity. Savvy meeting planners notice a speaker’s  demeanor during the informal conference get-togethers, one-on-one conversations with delegates, sponsors, banquet and A/V staff, hotel reception, providers of transportation services…every interface counts. With so much at stake for a meeting to be considered an outstanding success, a speaker’s ability to build a positive reputation, whether on or off the stage, is paramount. Although one cannot measure genuineness, there is no doubt that actions do indeed speak louder than words.

By Michelle Ray