For as long as there have been events, there have been event managers and there have been event speakers. And while the relationship between these two vital eventing roles is mostly one steeped in professionalism and courtesy, sometimes that isn’t the case. There’s no denying that some speakers are just outright difficult to work with, but there are also steps that can be taken to ensure that no matter who you’ve got speaking at your event, they’re performing to their highest level for you and the event delegates, and it all comes down to great speaker management – because at the end of the day, an informed, managed speaker is a happy speaker, no matter if they’re delivering the key message at your event or acting as the MC.
Many of the speakers you’ll work with will be ‘big deals’ – that’s why you’ve hired them in the first place! But celebrities, CEOs and successful entrepreneurs are busy people, so how do you have your needs met without nagging and making them angry? The key is communication.
Why communication is so important in speaker management
When everyone knows what’s expected of them, there’s a much higher chance that they’ll be able to deliver on that, so be clear from the very beginning about what you need from your speaker. Keeping your event objectives in mind, make sure that your speaker’s talk is aligned with your key messaging, and don’t be afraid to ask them to customise their talk for the audience by giving them any details they may need to make this work. Do you need to see their presentation ahead of time, and if so, how far in advance? Communicate from the very start WHY you need what you need, and why you need it when you need it, and that gives your speaker the chance to buy into the process, so that you’re a team from the get-go rather than them feeling you’re hassling them for reasons they don’t understand.
When paired with communication, understanding is also imperative to great speaker management – and when it’s coming from both sides, it can make all the difference to a kick-ass event. It’s so easy to paint a busy guest speaker as an insensitive jerk when you’re struggling to work with them, so encourage yourself to approach them with a professional level of understanding. Does this speaker have a crazy, busy schedule that might be keeping them from communicating with you quite as often as you’d like, and do they have a reputation for delivering great content on the day? Approach the situation with a level of understanding from the start and your speaker will already be far more susceptible to developing a strong relationship with you. In many situations, you may not have direct access to your speaker and will be liaising with their personal assistant or manager. In these cases, remember to make your brief clear and ensure that you have a good call sheet, so that no information falls through the cracks or gets lost in translation. Leave no stone unturned when dealing with a middle man - their job is to make the speaker look good and some may do it at any cost – as the planner you need to ensure they have everything they need to do their job effectively.
It is also important to remember that professional speakers are consistently being hired for a reason, so they may have multiple events lined up alongside yours. So give them a unique reason to over perform at yours! Going the extra mile to ensure that your speaker is comfortable can make a huge difference to their performance, so think about how you can best do this – maybe they need their own space for mental preparation, or perhaps they’ll benefit from free Wi-Fi – think beyond the inclusion of the basics such as water, food and the right tools for their presentation. A little courtesy treatment prior or during your event will go a long way, so be authentic about showing your appreciation.
Ultimately, it’s important to remember that your speaker may well be at the core of your event – after all, high profile speakers are often key to selling tickets. No matter how difficult they may be, if you work hard to make them feel valued, appreciated, and heard, chances are you’ll find them much easier to work with, and far more willing to put in that little bit extra to make the event a success. Remember, speakers are people too and great speaker management lies in great communication – who knows, maybe you’ll even make a new friend!