Speaker recruitment is challenging. The best emcees and celebrities often cost $100,000 more than the budget allows. And the ones that are in your price range don’t have enough clout to even make it past your weekly executive meeting, so you keep going back to the drawing board. It’s no wonder that months into the search, the speaker that finally aligns on schedule, relevancy, expectations, and price is quickly locked in. But what’s in that speaker agreement that you just signed? Anything new to keep up with the new event that you’re creating, or does it look the same as it did five years ago? I bet it sounds something like, “Please check here if you agree to allow (company) to use your name, likeness, photograph, video or audio, and transcription of your presentation. Please check here if you do not consent to any photography or footage during the event.”
As you seek to innovate your live events, you can’t just look at experience design as the saving grace. You have to look at the holistic story of how attendees engage with your event. You have to modernize your speaker contracts to better support your event’s value proposition. A lot has changed in the past 15 years in the way that people interact with each other and with your events. Your speakers, who are the face of your annual event, should help build a positive story throughout their engagement.
1. Require Assets Black-and-white headshots and long bios have their place and time, but they rarely excite your prospective attendees as they evaluate your program. Request a candid image. Be intentional about how you promote your events and don’t settle. If your event claims to be a forward-thinking organization, demonstrate it in the visuals. If your event claims to be different, make sure that your differentiating factors come to life in as many ways as possible. Request a video clip. What type of video clip? A 30-60 second close-up or medium shot of your keynote on stage. Pretty much anything goes, as long as the backdrop doesn’t have a step and repeat or huge logo of another event. You don’t even need the topic at hand to be relevant as your marketing team will likely only extract a 5-second soundbite or mute the clip altogether in exchange for music and voice over. Video works wonders in promoting an event, but it is a much more powerful sales tool when it is a story of what is to come instead of a recap of what was. Bonus* Ask the speaker to share the video on their social channels and use your event #hashtag when they do!
2. Require 1-2 Interviews Schedule time for your comms team to talk with your keynote speaker to ask pointed questions for use in a blog post and featured article in your association publication. Original thought leadership is a great marketing strategy to showcase the speaker’s expertise and make it easy for the audience to see how he/she is relevant to the challenges facing the industry. Even better, if the speaker is willing to do a second interview, allow a news organization within your industry the opportunity to talk with your keynote speaker as well. This will provide earned media as they mention the speaker and their association with your event.
3. Schedule an Hour Meet-and-Greet The keynote speaker is not the driving factor for why most attendees participate in live events. However, meeting the keynote can provide one of those signature moments that attendees are seeking at your live events. Make sure that you reserve time after the general session for the keynote to meet-and-greet with guests and sign their books. Additionally, an invite-only lunch or roundtable discussion with the keynote is a huge opportunity to upsell attendees on a premium package.
4. Have an Arrival Plan…and a Backup Plan Make sure the keynote arrives in time for their presentation! It sounds like a no-brainer, but I’ve seen a canceled flight on the eve of a conference result in the keynote missing their opening general session presentation. You can imagine the tone that this sets for the duration of the event. And even when the person made good and the association did a double-hitter on day two, minds were already made, and the NPS scores impacted. Not only should it be required that the speaker arrive the day before, but specify when exactly they need to be in town, and when they need to be available for a walkthrough. Stay firm in your negotiations as it’s ultimately your reputation on the line. In the case of the opening-general-session-that-wasn’t, no backup plan existed. Cringeworthy right?! Let this be a warning to not only create a backup plan for the expected unexpected, but a lesson to also stay agile at your events, and go above and beyond to deliver the best value you can for attendees.
5. Send a Follow-up “From the Keynote” How many times have you heard, “we spend so much time planning our annual conference and then just like that it’s over?” Probably a lot. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Keep the conversation going by sending out an email in which a speaker checks up on progress made since the conference. Remind them of the takeaways coming out of the conversation, and reinspire them to use that knowledge to make their organization more effective. Whether video or written, this demonstrates to attendees that your event truly is outcome-oriented.
Share Your Expertise My goal this year for Otter Talk is to bridge the gap between event planners and marketers to drive higher-performing events. What advice do you have as we work together to improve our process, communication, and attendee experience? Feel free to share your feedback directly—my email is email@example.com.Please comment below, I would love to hear your feedback.
Join us at our first Event Innovators Exchange (EIX) in 2020 on Wednesday, February 19th. The session, Do You Know Your Event Story?, will both teach you how to incorporate storytelling structure into your event, and how to use storytelling secrets to deliver great event messaging. Be sure to bring your marketing team along!