A Step by Step Guide to Make the Most Out of Your Speakers

Organization may seem like a personal problem but it has a ripple effect throughout much of the event. A disorganized approach to your event may be causing your speakers more work and making your content less effective. Here are a few things you can do to remedy that.

Everyone knows it’s important to be organized as an event planner. No secret there. A disorganized event planner runs into issues with supplier agreements, sponsorships, travel coordination, venue details, and so much more. But one area you may not have considered is what disorganization does to your speakers.

Sloppiness in managing the essentials of an event experience overloads speakers and content with an over-inflated responsibility to perform. The more well-planned an event is, the less the speakers will struggle with incorrect or incomplete information. Here’s how your organization affects your speakers and what you can do about it.

A Step by Step Guide to Make the Most Out of Your Speakers

Step One: Speaker Selection

Event disorganization can be felt as early as speaker selection. If you don’t understand your target audience and their event wants and needs, you’ll find it difficult to attract the right types of speakers. Before you place a call for speakers, you need to be clear on who you’re trying to reach at your event. Once you know that, you can begin to understand what their interests are.

You may have multiple demographics within your event audience. Again, knowing what each wants and creating attendee personas will help you stay organized. Once you know what the audience wants, you can begin to recruit for it.

While you’re doing so, it is essential to weigh each speaker application against whether they meet the needs of your audience. To skip this critical step could mean you get an excellent speaker who isn’t well received by your group and thus fails to connect.

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Step Two: Speaker Introductions and Bios

Most people glance over the importance of this step because they see it as just another thing on the to-do list, but building up your speakers in words and/or video format will get people excited about coming to your event and participating in the sessions. Share things about your speakers that few people know. Make your bios stand out from other conference bios that are merely titles and education.

Look to make connections with the audience through these intros and bios. Don’t assume that because you have big-name speakers, you don’t need to tell your audience about them. Since most people know them an introduction needn’t be as formal but tying their ‘why’ into the intro and bio can be an incredible connection tool. For instance, if you’re putting on an event for cancer physicians and your celebrity speaker had a child with cancer and is forever grateful for the care that child received, this is something to share with the audience. Asking your speaker to talk about it on video as a teaser can be an incredibly moving moment.

Step Three: Session Descriptions

Use the same care you used in the step above to create unique session descriptions. Tie in your audience needs with what they’ll get from the sessions. Use words they care about to describe how your sessions will help them with their problems. Make it clear and they’ll be more interested in attending.

This is another area where organization is essential. Look at each session through the lens of your audience. Stay on track with what it is that they want now and in the future and express it in terms they identify with. Spend a lot of time on your session descriptions. They are a major part of your marketing.

Step Four: Slides

This is a point of contention for many speakers and event planners. Professional speakers know what they’re doing and don’t like to have to present slides for sign-offs. Event planners want to make sure the slides are in keeping with the event message, mission, and branding.

A happy compromise is likely the best action in this situation. An organized event planner shares the conference theme so the speaker can tie in their message. An event pro also shares what they know about the audience demographics, needs, and wants. They likely share what has been done before and what other presenters are doing as well. This information should be shared when the speaker is selected so any tweaks to a session can occur while the presentation is still in draft mode. Waiting until a few weeks before the event and then telling the presenter key facts about the audience will mean more work on their part and likely a lot of well-deserved grumbling.

Step Five: Live Speaker Intros

These intros are given right before your speaker hits the stage. They have a different role to play than your conference intros when your audience is selecting their tracks. Here your audience is anxiously awaiting the speaker so it’s not so much about creating interest but stirring excitement. Your energy must match this. Use music and lighting to your benefit. Don’t wing the introduction. Look for ways to engage your audience and stoke the anticipation. Don’t treat every speaker the same. You can even let the speaker introduce themselves if they’re known for their energy.

If you have multiple tracks at your event, keep your demographic in mind. The demographic in your marketing track may be very different than your developer track, for instance. Personalize your intros accordingly and don’t get the tracks confused. Again, organization is key.

Step Six: Ratings and Debrief

It’s important to get audience feedback on your speakers but if you don’t use it to shape your offerings for your next event, you might as well not ask for it. Here is another area where organization is critical. It’s easy to mix up surveys or ask the wrong questions. Make sure you keep audience suggestions straight.

Finally, take the time to get some feedback from your speakers. This will help shine a light on exactly how organized the whole process was. Did speakers feel prepared? What would they have done differently? What piece of information did they wish they had? These types of questions will help you build stronger relationships with them and assist in your planning for your next event as well.

In Conclusion

Many of the disconnects event planners experience with speakers feel like the speaker’s fault but not always. Sometimes, it’s a problem with organization and communication. A well-organized event goal, audience awareness, and the ability to see how all the components fit together towards event and speaker success will help event planners create a much stronger, cohesive environment that the audience will respond to.

Additional Reading on Event Organization

Event Organizational Breakdown Structure
The Art of Speaker Selection: Who Does It Right?
7 Steps to Customizing Your Venue Selection
How to Choose a Speaker that Will Resonate with Your Audience [Video]
Dear Event Planners, We Hate You. Sincerely, Your Speakers
Dear Speaker, I Loathe You. Sincerely Your Event Planner

About The Author
Christina Green
Christina R. Green is a digital storyteller and writer for associations and businesses, including journals such as the Midwestern Society of Association Executive's magazine and industry blogs. She's a voracious reader but has been known to stop reading if there are too many exclamation points used.
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Julius Solaris
Editor, Julius Solaris

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