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How to Ensure Speakers Hit Your Deadlines

By Christina Green

If you have speakers at your event you know how difficult it can be to get everything you need from them ahead of time. This is compounded when the speaker is famous or an executive at your company. How can you get your needs met without nagging and making them angry? Get out your tightrope walking shoes and read more...

Wrangling speakers can be a job all on its own. While you will come in contact with a lot of wonderful people when working with speakers, they aren’t the ones you remember. It’s those individuals that don’t do as you ask or provide you with the materials you need that can make your job a real chore.

We all have our own hot buttons and some speakers’ personalities won’t bother you, while others will have you swearing never again. But what do you do when the speakers that are driving you crazy aren’t ones you can send away? What do you do when they’re higher-ups in the company or well-known, crowd-inducing keynotes? You find a way to get along and get what you need with minimal stress and drama… at least on your part. Here are 6 easy steps to getting the information you need from speakers, with less trouble.

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How to Ensure Speakers Hit Your Deadlines

1.   Do You Really Need It? If So, Why?

Often, event planners and speakers disagree about needs. An event planner insists upon reviewing slides, for instance. And the highly-paid speaker bristles. After all, if the presentation was good enough for a Fortune 500 company why should it be a problem for this event’s audience?

From this perspective, it may be easier to understand why the speaker doesn’t immediately upload the presentation to DropBox. You’ve cast yourself (albeit possibly unknowingly) as the high school teacher with the red pen.

In order to defuse this situation, try the following steps:

  • Do you need to review the slide presentation?
    • If no, give up the request.
    • If yes, continue reading.
  • Why do you need to see it? This is extremely important because there could be a very critical need such as:
    • You need to know approximately how long the presentation will take. However, your speaker can tell you this. So go back to the first bullet.
    • Appropriateness for your audience. This is a valid reason. However, you should’ve already made this clear to the speaker before the presentation was created. If there was something you forgot, tell them and go back to the first bullet.
    • To give to the AV person. Tell the speaker you’re not reviewing it, you’re ensuring there’s a copy on hand the day of and it’s already pre-loaded on the laptop. This is not a mark of judgment on you reviewing the work. You understand tech and want to minimize any potential issues.
    • To create social media posts and marketing components. Then don’t ask to see the whole presentation. Ask for Tweetables.

Now that you and the speaker have come to an understanding, and you’ve qualified having to see the presentation to only extreme cases of need, let’s talk about what you do when there is a need and they’re not listening to your polite requests.

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2. Begin with Why

Okay, this sounds a little like Simon Sinek’s famous TED speech, (which is worth watching if you haven’t already) but it’s important that the speaker understands why you need what you need. Maybe they’re dragging their feet simply because they don’t want to give you the materials you requested.

Maybe they don’t think you need them or it’s become a source of stubborn pride accompanied by the thought of who do they think they are asking me for my presentation? A simple explanation can put these issues to rest and produce materials quickly. As you ascertained in the exercise above, you know why you need them. Now explain it to your speaker.

3. Talk to the Culture

If the difficult speaker you’re dealing with is a higher-up in your own company, include some of the company culture or mission in your request. Be subtle or complimentary in how you include it but mention it nonetheless. Maybe they’re just busy and need a reminder (remember, subtle is key here). No nagging allowed. 

If the speaker is not part of your company culture remind them of the culture of your event and what is expected of them. 

4. Don’t Paint the Bad Guy

Our society is doing a lot to work on combatting stereotypes these days. And while we’ve come a long way in assuming things based on gender, race, or age, we still have some work to do. It’s tempting when people ignore our requests over and over to assume they’re insensitive jerks. We paint them as callous, rude, and if they’re a famous speaker or executive in the company we may even think money has made them that way.

When we rely on these stereotypes to do the thinking for us, we often jump to the wrong conclusions. For instance, an exec may be ignoring your request because this week they’re preparing something for the board. Maybe numbers are down and their job is in jeopardy. Your request for a few slides seems like a mosquito bite to someone who already has malaria.

Yet, since you have painted them as a selfish, self-absorbed exec every hour that ticks by that you don’t receive those slides you see them as more and more entitled. In reality, you may just not be making their radar that week. Ask them again. Don’t let bad feelings build. It’s probably not you.

5. Offer Your Assistance

Be as specific as possible when offering assistance. Don’t just add the “Let me know if I can help” sign-off on your email. Make suggestions based on what you need from them. For instance, if you need a bio, offer to put it together by using things on LinkedIn and their social media profiles and then get it to them for sign-off. Sometimes they simply don’t have the time to provide what you’re waiting for.

6. Mention the Effect

Every action or inaction creates an effect in an event. Tell your “staller” what will happen if they are unable to get you what you requested by the deadline. Be specific and be firm. And don’t work your magic afterward if they miss the deadline. Make sure you place the specifics of their inactions and effects in writing, discuss on a phone call, leave in a message, and attach a handwritten note to their cat’s collar, if necessary.

They need to know why and what will happen.

In Conclusion

Speakers are often pinnacle to an events success and that’s why it can be incredibly frustrating when they refuse to adhere to your requests. Sometimes it’s a simple misunderstanding of the urgency with which you need something, while other times they don’t understand why you need it and dig their heels in over a misunderstanding. Whatever the case, open communication is generally all, or at least a very important part, of the solution.

 Recommended Further Reading

Dear Speaker, I Loathe You. Sincerely, Your Event Planner
Dear Event Planner, We Hate You. Sincerely, Your Speakers.
8 Ways to Set your Speakers up for Success
5 Must-Do’s for Your Conference Speakers
Turn Your Event Speakers into Online Marketing Machines
Forget Speakers: 7 Alternatives for an Innovative Event
How Much Should You Be Paying Your Speakers
Re-Imagining your CEO’s Keynote Speech

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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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