Not long ago, becoming a professional speaker was a third step in a thought leaders career path. Many built their expertise in an industry or function, shifted to consulting and then wrote a book to launch their speaking career. In today’s digital age, the path to creating a thought leader platform, leading to speaking gigs, is shifting to a second career play. This is good news for planners. More quality options result in a buyer’s market…now and in the years ahead.
What to Look For
Keynote speakers should be chosen wisely. How your audience responds will have a direct impact on your conference’s brand image and credibility. From a conference design perspective, we believe the current best practice is to bookend your conference by opening with a strong-thought provoking speaker and closing with inspiration. This model sets the tone your conference and then sends the participants off with an emotional high.
Five boxes you should check before selecting a keynote speaker:
- Relevant – Content must align with a major problem or opportunity facing your profession.
- Current – The speaker’s expertise must be fresh; not the same shtick they did 10+ years ago.
- Customized – Canned presentations and stories don’t move audiences. Determine the degree a speaker will research and deliver relevancy for your industry.
- Polished – A speaker’s delivery skills and stage presence matter much. Look for authenticity + charisma.
- Engaging – If a speaker doesn’t have a plan for chunking content and infusing audience participation, don’t hire them.
As you evaluate speakers on this criteria, be sure to check references and video tape from the past 12 months. Don’t just view the highlight real. Ask for access to a full length, recent example.
First and foremost, do not short change your audience by not baking in enough time for a high quality keynote. Some organizations spend too much time on preaching to the converted about the state of the industry, recognition and passing of the gavel – aka pageantry. Be sure to allow a minimum of 45 minutes for the main speaker.
As competition increases for keynote gigs, speakers are increasingly looking for ways to differentiate and deliver more value. Here’s what some organizers are asking for and getting:
- Pre-Event Content Marketing – Customized promotional video or interview, webinar, article contribution for newsletter, blog, podcast or magazine, social channel engagement.
- Onsite Optimization – Captured or streamed keynote, concurrent session presentation, sponsor recognition, book signings, social channel engagement and VIP sessions/experiences.
- Post-Event Content Marketing – Participate in a scheduled replay. Anything listed in pre-event category above.
Develop a list of prioritized concessions (value adds), just like you would for hotel negotiations. Be sure to either communicate this when inquiring or request the speaker to give you their recommendations for adding value.
Invest in Professional Speakers
According to PCMA Convene’s 25th annual Meeting Market Survey, organizers invest 7 percent of a meeting’s direct expenses into speakers and entertainment. Other than food/beverage and audio visual/production, it’s the third most valued investment of your attendee value proposition. As attendees evolve into collectors of experiences, this investment category should be a ripe area for future increases.
Organizers are wise to infuse diversity of thought and make an emotional connections through professional speakers. To realize the highest ROI, challenge these professionals to add value beyond the main stage.
What are some qualities you look for in a keynote speaker? What kind of value-adds are they providing to you before or after your event?
Adapted from Dave’s Forward Thinking column in PCMA’s Convene. Reprinted with permission of Convene, the magazine of the Professional Convention Management Association. ©2016.