Any business that is in the process of planning an event will almost certainly have finding a guest speaker on the to do list. Whether you’re in search of a seasoned professional speaker to headline a large conference. Need a rousing individual to motivate your troops. Or somebody with a story to tell that will resonate with your audience and move them to take action, finding the right guest speaker for your event can make the difference between a wash out and a sell-out.
Yet with so many orators available, talking on a whole conglomeration of subjects, it can be difficult to know where to begin in your quest to find the right person to deliver the perfect speech at your event. One that understands your brand and can produce the desired outcome by fully connecting with your audience.
Luckily, I have some experience on both sides of the coin, both as an event and conference planner and a guest speaker at events. So, here I’ll share some unique insight from both viewpoints. Read on for my in-depth guide on finding the right speaker for your event.
TALKING WITH EXPERIENCE…
In my opinion, finding the right guest speaker for your event is not just about finding and booking the right person. In my extensive experience as an event planner, and as a seasoned public speaker, I’ve found there are many things to think about on both sides of the party.
On the event planning side, you need to consider things like getting the best out of your public speaker with the right brief. As well as the best time in your line-up to use them for maximum impact. Crucially, you also need to make sure they have everything they need to perform at their best.
As a guest speaker, you should be sure to really get underneath the skin of the brand you’re working for and understand the audience you’re connecting with. Arrive late and unprepared at your peril. You need to test out the equipment. Walk the stage. Get to grips with the room and ensure you feel comfortable with the set up. Nothing is worse than a speaker who clearly hasn’t done their prep.
The best thing is, that if both parties plan, prepare and perform to perfection then it could be the start of a brilliant, long-term relationship. Much of my public speaking work has come from repeat bookings or from being seen at events by an audience member who in turn has asked me to go on and work for them.
WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF PUBLIC SPEAKER?
A good starting point in finding the right guest speaker for your event is to consider the type of speaker you need to meet your event’s objectives. I won’t bore you on the importance of setting aims for your event, but it is crucial in terms of getting the most out of your guest speaker and finding one aligned to the purpose of your event.
For this purpose, I have outlined what I believe to be the four different types of performers:
Some elements of which will be interchangeable, but you can see a rough guide of these with some examples of each type below. When deciding which type of speaker you need, consider what impact you want your performer to have. Do you want your audience to feel roused, motivated, inspired? Do you want to impart some knowledge or have them empathise with your guest speaker? Do you want them to feel like they’ve had a unique insight into somebody else’s experience?
Your motivational speaker is not a household name but will deliver a speech according to your aims. Whether that be to boost productivity, raise morale, or provide better communication within the organisation. Your audience should take away real practical tips that they can put into practice in their work or home lives.
Some words to describe the motivational speaker are enthusiastic and engaging. They make you want to get up and ‘do’. Or make changes for the better in some area of your life.
What I would describe as a public speaker is a celebrity or well-known person. They could be an expert in a given field. A TV or radio personality. Or they could have a unique story to tell. For example, Baroness Helen Newlove or Figen Murray are both public speakers that I admire greatly. A public speaker is likely to talk about their experiences – how certain events affected their lives. More often than not, they will give a version of the same speech to each audience. In the main, it won’t be tailored to your event. Public speakers are brilliant for functions or fundraising events.
Some words to describe the public speaker are funny, entertaining, outspoken and charismatic. Your audience will feel they have witnessed something emotive, special, exciting, and memorable.
The inspirational speaker is similar to a motivational speaker but will look at wider themes within society. They might examine society as a whole, how you can affect change within your life or within a group of individuals or how the audience can be moved to reach their true potential.
Examples of inspirational speakers include Greta Thunberg, Martin Luther King, and Steve Jobs. They are rousing, emotive, forthright, determined and well, inspirational.
This is your best-in-class speaker at an event. They’re usually the highest paid of all your speakers and they should also be the best. Your keynote speaker is like your headline act at a festival, they should be the one that draws in delegates. The one who your ideal guests really want to hear from. Your keynote speaker could be any of the three types of speakers I have already outlined and should epitomise what you are aiming to achieve from your event. Importantly they should be fully aligned with your brand values.
PUBLIC SPEAKING TECHNIQUES
Informative, persuasive, demonstrative, ceremonial.
Take a read of this: https://www.slidecow.com/blog/different-types-public-speaking/
HOW TO SPOT A GOOD EVENT SPEAKER
Finding the right guest speaker for your event takes experience and a thorough approach. Before making the commitment of signing up a speaker to your event there are some tips that can help you to ascertain if their performance will be up to scratch. Here are just a few things that will sort the good speakers from the best of the best.
THEY ASK QUESTIONS
Your initial discussion shouldn’t be a one-way conversation. A good guest speaker will have a vested interested in your business and won’t just talk about themselves. They should be on a fact-finding mission from day one, discovering as much as possible about your business, your event, and the impact you want their speech to have.
THEY HAVE A SOCIAL PLATFORM AND SHARE THEIR CONTENT, SPEECHES, AND KNOWLEDGE ON THERE
One of the best ways to promote yourself as a guest speaker is through uploading previous performances to social media and streaming channels like YouTube. Any good guest speaker will have examples from events they’ve attended as standard. Giving you the opportunity to see first-hand how they connect with an audience, as well as some of the previous topics they have covered.
THEY COME WITH RECOMMENDATIONS
Word gets around within an industry, so if there’s a particularly good guest speaker doing the rounds, you’re likely to hear about them. You’ll also more than likely root out any divas and demanding performers this way too, or those that are simply not up to scratch. If word of mouth has not done its job, then it’s perfectly okay to contact companies that have used your guest speaker before to see what their experience was like.
THEY FOLLOW UP AFTER THE EVENT TO MAKE SURE YOU’VE MET YOUR OBJECTIVES
An event isn’t finished because it’s over. A professional individual will should contact you afterwards to gain valuable feedback for both parties and ensure you have met or exceeded the objectives you set out to achieve.
HOW TO GET THE BEST OUT OF YOUR SPEAKER
Of course, the onus is on you as an event planner to make sure every professional at your event is fully briefed and supported to give their best professional performance. This goes for caterers, technicians, waiting on staff, bar tenders, hosts, your own event team and of course, guest speakers.
Some ideas to help you get the most out a guest speaker include:
- Making sure they’re being briefed properly. Give them a fully detailed written brief as well as talking and walking them through it in situ on the day of the event.
- Check the environment is right. Sit or stand where your speaker will be positioned. Check there are no spotlights shining in their eyes, and that it’s not too hot or cold. They need a comfortable setting if they are going to perform at their best.
- Offer them the right terms. Don’t try to scrimp and save on this area of your event unless you’re working for a charity of course. Offer your speaker the right pay, travel, accommodation and honour any agreements you’ve made, and you will certainly get more out of your guest speaker than if you try to knock them down on price.
- Check the tech! The last thing you need is for the microphone to stop working halfway through, or the crowd wincing because of feedback. A run through ahead of time to check everything is working as it should, will give you time to iron out any issues.
- Record the speech. Make your speaker work way beyond event day by capturing their talk and reusing bitesize clips across your social channels. Not only will you reach out to new audiences who follow them and have a vested interest in their content, you’re adding value to your own followers too. Just make sure it has been agreed that you can do this in the initial contract. Another tip is to have your PR team scour the content for newsworthy points, which can then be written up and shared with media, especially if you have a noteworthy public speaker.
- Make a back-up plan. If you listen to one rule then let it be this. Do not rely on Wi-Fi for presentations, media files and supporting materials. Always download and keep a local copy just in case.
WHAT IF YOU’RE THE SPEAKER?
My final area of advice is for those of you who are just starting out as guest speakers themselves. Or those seasoned professionals who are always looking to hone their craft. What’s the one piece of advice I would share to those looking to improve their technique?
I would treat your performance as just that – a performance. You are not there simply to talk. It’s entertainment. You need to move, gesticulate, roam the stage (if relevant and possible). Keep each and every person in that audience on their toes. That’s not to say you need to be bounding around and full of energy if that’s not your style. It’s important to be authentic. But you do need to find some way of keeping them interested.
One tip is to hook them in with an initial question, anecdote, or statement that you can revisit at the close of your presentation. Leave them hanging until the very end and you will never lose your audience.
You need to respect your audience. Once you’ve been booked for an event it’s your responsibility to put the time in. Do your research, phrase your talk in a way that’s relatable and gives people practical advice that they can take away and use in their own lives. Respect their time and yours.
Then finally, always, leave them wanting more…
SOME SPEAKERS TO HEAR
Reese Witherspoon might not be the first person that springs to mind when thinking of a well-versed public speaker. Just watch this clip of her at the Glamour Women of the Year Awards though. What I admire about her style is how calm and collected she is, while still managing to get across how incredibly passionate she is on the subject matter. And of course, I also love that she has championed female lead characters in the film industry, shaping the future of what is still unfortunately a man’s world.
And how about somebody who kicked off their public speaking career at the grand age of ten years old as inspiration? She is now a multi-award-winning international star and ideal if your event aims to appeal to a younger audience.