If you host or plan conferences and meetings, chances are you have dealt with keynote speakers. In many cases you, or a client, are paying these speakers to perform. In some cases, they are a friend of the company or organization and are donating their time. Either way, a speaker is one part of the larger investment in your program and/or your audience. Comfortable speakers deliver in more ways than one. A frazzled and frustrated speaker is not going to give you what you are looking for, no matter how much you might have paid them. Keeping that in mind, here are a few trusted tips for creating a seamless speaker experience.
HAVE A CONTRACT
This seems like a no-brainer, but it is surprising how many speaker agreements are handled with a simple invoice. A contract isn’t just a legal document that holds both parties to their end of a bargain. A contract is a tool that lays out what the speaker expects and what the company will be providing. There are a million likes and dislikes you could consider in accommodating your speaker, but luckily for all of us a contract with rider requirements lays all of these out quite clearly. Even if a speaker is volunteering their time, create a contract to simply lay out what the speaker is expecting and what the client will be providing.
DESIGNATE A SPEAKER LIAISON
Especially in events with multiple speakers or breakout sessions, there should be a designated member of your team who the speakers or their representatives reach out to. On the other side, when the same team member is reaching out to them, it builds a level of trust and comfort knowing who will be taking care of the details onsite. This person will also serve the role in person, greeting the speaker upon arrival with any registration or additional information and materials they may need.
GET THE TECHNICAL SPECS
Sometimes speakers will include this information in the contract, but not always. You need to make sure your AV team is prepared for any special technical requirements or equipment the speaker needs access to. If they are bringing a presentation, you’ll need to know what format it is in. You’ll need to know if there is embedded video. You’ll need to know if they plan on using their own computer, and if so, what the make and model of the computer is. Do they understand the screen size of 4:3 vs 16:9 and how the makeup of their presentation plays into that? We might say this in almost every post, and it’s because it’s true. Knowledge is power for planners, clients & speakers!
CREATE A CLEAR AND CONCISE AGENDA FOR EACH SPEAKER
We (and I’m sure some others) call this our Speaker Ready Letter (SRL). It contains all the details they need to know. Even if they are booking their own travel, we get their flight and hotel info so that it’s all included with their rehearsal and performance times. It lists everything we need to know about their contracted requirements & AV needs. It also gives our team quick access to their information on single page document.
CREATE A GREENROOM
Even if this isn’t a contractual requirement, having a green room gives you an agreed upon location where the speaker(s) can go and wait for the speaker liaison to meet them and guide them to the presentation area. This also saves your team from having to give what can be complicated directions to the back of house or techland area. Greenrooms create a space for your speakers to relax prior to presenting. Not all of them need that time, but it’s nice to have it available to those who do. If a speaker would rather watch the other presentations, designate a table or seating area for speakers in the room. You can accommodate their wishes while still making sure you can locate them when they are needed.
REHEARSE AND SOUNDCHECK ON YOUR OWN BEFORE YOU REHEARSE AND SOUNDCHECK WITH THE SPEAKER
Not all speakers like to do sound checks and run-throughs. Some will send an assistant to stand in for them. Either way, prior to the speaker ever being on site, make sure your team has run through their presentation and/or any media they have provided to you. You might be thinking… A sound check is the time to find any mistakes. Here’s some inside info: NO IT ISN’T. A sound check is a time for your speaker to become comfortable on stage and get a feel for the mic, podium and other equipment being used. If you have already run through their media, when they approach tech for their rehearsal time (or to get their mic) you are ready. You welcome them by letting them know that a.) You have already run through the media and everything has run as planned, do they want to run it again? or b.) An issue has arisen with a piece of media and you have the following ideas on how to correct it. Then run it with the corrections. This gives your speaker confidence that you know what you are doing and it also serves the interests of your client and team. Hiccups can happen even after multiple rehearsals, but they are far less likely to if you have run the media multiple times.
It is not just your speaker’s job to be prepared. As hosts, planners, committees, boards, or whatever your planning group is, it is your job to create the confidence your speaker needs to know that everything will be ready for them. While they create the content for their presentation, you are providing all of the support. The support that will make both of you look competent and prepared. The support that is a further investment in your program and your audience. The support that takes a good program and turns it into an amazing one.