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Organiser's Guide to Speakers - Whether you need an after-dinner speaker or a motivational guru, our guide will help you book smart.
Anyone who’s had to sit through a bad speech (which surely means
everyone with a job) knows it can be sheer, unadulterated purgatory. The flip side is, anyone who’s sat through a great speech delivered by a charismatic speaker knows just how inspiring and
entertaining they can be.
Trouble is, there’s a limited gene pool of quality public speakers out there – and the best ones can charge accordingly. To step above ‘Take my mother-in-law, please…’ quality, you’re looking at £1,000 minimum. So think carefully about what you need before plunging in and booking the wrong speaker.
A common mistake made by event organisers is to hire a big name without considering whether he or she is right for the job. Begin by asking yourself two questions. First, who will the audience be?
Take into account the age range, the male-female ratio and their line of work. Second, what is the objective of your event? An IT conference will require a very different style of speaker to a
boozed-up after-dinner crowd.
This last point is key. Look at it from your speaker’s point of view. If their niche is giving inspiring 15-minute talks about overcoming adversity, then they turn up to an event to be asked to do 40 minutes on something completely different, their heart will sink – as will the hearts of your audience, after about the fifth minute. Take advice from your chosen agency as to who you should be booking for your event – it’s in their interests for you to make the right choice. And don’t get bamboozled by fame. Big names may create a buzz, but can also be a bit of a headache. Not just due to cost, but in terms of security and organisation. Many agencies suggest you save star performers for exclusive ‘by invitation’ events, or for ticketed events, where their presence can help boost sales. There are many ‘everyman’ speakers out there who you’ll never have heard of, with amazing personal stories and the ability to enthral an audience.
Finally, a word to the wise. Don’t think you can dictate the content of a speech or feed your speaker lines. Anyone who’s half-decent will certainly tailor what they say to the audience, and you can brief them on what’s expected of them, but telling them what to say is definitely out of the question. That’s why – if it needs repeating – it’s so important to book a relevant speaker in the first place.
This feature first appeared in the Square Meal Venues & Events Guide 2011.