Your business event is underway, and you’ve hired the perfect guest speaker to teach and motivate your employees. Here’s how you can treat your speaker the right way before, during, and after your event.
Before the Event
Take an honest look at your capabilities when it comes to event planning. If you need help with video creation, presentation, and live event setup, you might benefit from working with a full-service bureau, like Leading Authorities Speakers Bureau, which can help with staging the speech instead of hiring an independent speaker and doing staging on your own.
Once you’ve chosen your speaker, put all of the logistical arrangements in writing. Agree to pick your speaker up at the airport if he or she is coming from out of town, and get the name of an emergency contact in case something happens to your guest. Be clear about the time commitment, including when you want the speaker to arrive and depart, as well as how long the speech should be.
Request a written list of all equipment the speaker will need, and assign one of your sharpest and most detail-oriented people to serve as an assistant to your speaker. Finally, give the speaker an honest overview of the audience, including demographics, expectations, confidence with the topic, and seniority level.
During the Event
Events get chaotic, and it’s easy to forget the small things that make a speech go smoothly. Follow these steps to make the event great for your speaker.
Pack the House
You owe it to your guest speaker to pack the venue with an excited audience. Work before and during the event to hype the speaker and to get people excited. Promote the speech on social media, share it on your company intranet, and invite people via corporate email. Ask the speaker’s permission to record a short interview series to promote the speech, or post YouTube clips of past performances and share trailers from the speaker’s website. Your audience will be more receptive if you’ve sold them on the speaker beforehand, and your speaker will be happier to perform before an enthusiastic audience.
Have Everything Ready
It’s a good idea to review the contract a few days before the event to make sure that you’ve taken care of everything your speaker will need. Create a checklist for the assistant, and confirm that supplies are ready. Additionally, take care of all equipment — and give it a test run — before the speech starts. Test the sound system, lighting, computer, and video connections to avoid any glitches during the speech. Also, place some water bottles on a table within easy reach of the speaker.
Make the Assistant Available
From the moment the speaker arrives, your speaker’s assistant should have no jobs other than helping your speaker prepare and execute the event. Provide a phone for the assistant, and write down the number for the speaker to ensure that the speaker can reach the assistant at any time.
Make sure the assistant has copies of any pertinent phone numbers. For example, if there’s a technical glitch with the equipment, make sure the assistant knows whom to contact. Also, give the assistant some petty cash in case the speaker wants refreshments or has other unexpected requests.
Give a Great Introduction
For a motivational speaker, choose someone that will make the audience feel excited about the upcoming speech, not the senior vice president who speaks in a monotone voice and never makes eye contact with the crowd. If you’ve chosen a formal and venerable speaker, offer a more formal introduction so that the transition doesn’t feel awkward. Write down all biographical information, and make sure the person making the introduction can correctly pronounce every word in the bio.
After the Speech
Make sure you know what the speaker wants to do after the event. Some speakers like to mingle, others want to get to their next gig, and still others just want to relax back at the hotel. Pay the speaker within 30 minutes of the end of the speech. Then, if the speaker needs to leave, provide a car, and have the assistant stock it with beverages and other requested amenities.
Most speakers appreciate genuine and detailed feedback about their performance, so tell them what worked and what didn’t. Make sure to actually attend the speech so that your feedback is genuine. Within 48 hours, mail your speaker a thank you note expressing your appreciation. Remember: Treating your speaker well is just as important after the speech as it is during the event.
Some Final Points of Etiquette
In addition to considering what you should do for your speakers, here are a few things that your speakers want you not to do:
Don’t Put Social Shares in the Contract
Social media shares by your speaker can generate fantastic buzz about your event. Ask your speaker if he or she is willing to promote your event, but avoid contract clauses that require your speaker to tweet a specific number of times. A speaker who has genuine enthusiasm for your event will be happy to share it with his or her audience. The shares will be more organic and authentic when they’re not contractual.
Many event planners try to control what the speaker has to say. They ask for copies of slides and try to edit them, which can be insulting to a professional and accomplished speaker. It’s fine to call your speaker a couple of weeks before the event to discuss the gist of the content, but avoid trying to micromanage your speaker. If you’re worried about the content, review the speaker’s videos, blog, and SlideShares for an overview of what to expect.
Don’t Ask Speakers to Perform for “Exposure”
The best speakers in the business will not perform in exchange for exposure. Unless it’s an incredible networking opportunity, they won’t work in exchange for only travel and accommodations, either. Hiring a great speaker is an investment in your workforce and in the development of your company. Prepare to pay for that investment — you’ll be glad that you did.