If your event includes a lecture or presentation of sorts, then someone has to be up on a stage to speak to an auditorium full of intent listeners. Of course, you can’t just hire any yahoo to do the job. The speaker not only has to be knowledgeable of your industry but also has to be charismatic and know how to keep an audience engaged.
The last thing you want after all is a roomful of audience where half the people are either nodding off or texting. Here are a few tips to help you secure a kickass speaker that will inform a crowd while equally keeping them on the tip of their feet.
1. Name Recognition
Does the speaker you’re considering have an established reputation within the industry? The speaker doesn’t even have to be in the industry and can just be a general speaker that’s willing to research your company, products, and audience in depth. In any case, though, the speaker should be fairly well known.
Now, obviously, big name speakers will charge an exorbitant fee that may be out of your budget. Nevertheless, you should still make an effort to get someone that is at least somewhat well-known and advertise the speaker’s credentials.
If he has a YouTube channel, for instance, then promote the channel and mention some highpoints, such as the number of views the person has, or any prestigious institutions he may have spoken at.
2. Getting a Speaker to Speak for Free
Don’t bet on acquiring a high profile speaker free of charge. However, if you’re a startup and budgeting is priority, then consider settling for an unknown or up and coming speaker. Some of them are willing to speak for free in exchange for the publicity and building up their resume. Of course, by going this route, you’re getting someone who is mostly unknown.
It’s also somewhat risky since the person has little to no experience. If you do bring in an unknown, be sure the speaker carefully studies your company and material. Have him perform several dry runs before the actual presentation on event day.
Remember, it’s always more preferable to invest in a speaker who has name recognition and experience under his belt. However, if budgeting is simply too tight, then consider opting for a lower profile speaker.
3. Is the Speaker Charismatic?
Even if a speaker is extremely knowledgeable in your industry, he may not necessarily have the stage presence to really captivate the crowd. If the speaker just reads off a script or teleprompter verbatim, that is going to put the audience to sleep.
When hiring a speaker, always look up the person’s past speaking engagements. Is the person enthusiastic? Is he humorous? Is he able to elicit laughter while providing informative content?
The TED Conferences has featured some terrific speakers whose presentations never fail to captivate an audience. One such speaker is Julian Treasure. You can watch one of his seminars right here. The video has 4.8 million views as of January 2016, so this is clearly a speaker with some name recognition.
This man is very straight to the point with informative content, but the material isn’t dry by any means. He injects the occasional humor and even anecdotes from personal experiences. He also speaks very gracefully and clearly without excessive “uhm’s” or “eh’s” in between.
Just imagine what kind of publicity and reviews your event can get with a speaker with the same level of clarity and fluidity as Treasure. This isn’t to say that the speaker you hire has to be super articulate guy, but he does have to have a way of keeping the audience engaged.
Here’s something else to consider: does the speaker just talk to the audience, or does he interact with them? The two are not the same, and the latter is far more effective. It entails bringing the audience into the conversation by asking them questions, taking polls, or even bringing some of them on stage for a demonstration.
4. The Speaker Should Know Your Audience
A good speaker personalizes his material to suit the specific demographic. In other words, he wouldn’t utilize the same speaking approach for a crowd of 40-something-year-olds as he would for a tween audience. When interviewing speakers during the selection process, a candidate that enquires about the general make-up of your audience without you bringing it up is a good sign that you have a qualified speaker in front of you.
If available, watch previous presentations by the speaker. Watch the multiple lectures and the various demographic that make up those different presentations. Take note to see if the speaker uses a different approach. Does he use more formal language when speaking to an older audience? Does he use social media lingo or pop culture references when speaking to a millennial audience.
Good speakers are not easy to acquire. Due to their longstanding reputation, you may just be one of many planners trying to secure him for your event. As such, the speaker may not be available on your event day.
Instead of finding a speaker that’s available on your event day, consider moving your event date to a date when the speaker is available. It’s definitely worth the date change if the speaker has a lot of public recognition. The key to getting a good speaker is to be flexible and be willing to make changes around your speaker rather than expecting the reverse.
A Good Speaker Can Make All the Difference
A good event is determined by a lot of factors, such as implementing technology, leveraging social media, and acquiring sponsors. You can never estimate the value, though, of having a good speaker.
Someone that knows how to keep an audience engaged is someone that can really drive interest and conversion among a demographic that may still be on the fences about your company and what it offers.
Dan McCarthy is an Event Manager at Ultimate Experience, an event management company based in the UK. Dan has 5 years of event project management under his belt. He has worked on many successful events, and currently he shares his knowledge by writing on the company blog. Follow him on Twitter @DanCarthy2.