Need to find a great speaker? There are many things to consider. Do you need a motivational speaker? Or a business keynote speaker? When is your event? How many people are you expecting? And where is the event located? The answers of these questions will be important in your search. But in general, here are some some tips to keep in mind when looking for a dynamic professional speaker for your upcoming event.
Tip #1: Request a video.
Video is the best tool you have to evaluate speakers. You will immediately see if they are effective speakers or not. You’ll also see if they’re taking their speaking careers seriously. Good video is difficult to get. First, the speaker needs to be in front of an audience before anything can be recorded. Second, impressive videos require impressive events (raised stage, dimmed audience lighting, nice room, big audience). Third, a good video has at least two camera angles, ideally three. That requires a full video crew. And finally, all of this costs money!
There are hundreds of thousands of people who claim to be “speakers” but 99% of them only speak for free at local networking events. If they have video at all, it will be obvious that they aren’t serious about their careers. By requesting a video, you immediately weed out the newbies. It’s also the fastest way to see if they’re content and speaking style are consistent with your event objectives.
Tip #2: Request references.
It’s important to see where the speaker has spoken and to whom. In most cases, speakers will include a list of past clients or a list of speaking destinations (see the map below) on their websites. But if not, request one. Ideally, request a list of references as well. The people you call have very little allegiance to the speaker and will probably give you honest feedback on the speaker’s contribution to their own events.
Many speakers have huge egos. Ask about that when you call their references. Planning events is difficult enough as it is. The last thing you need is a ‘prima donna’ speaker that asks for silly and unrealistic accommodations when you’re busy with other things. Besides, generous and thoughtful speakers can add a lot to an event’s success. By attending dinners, signing books and answering questions, they can make attendees feel acknowledged and appreciated.
Tip #3: Check social media.
Social media like Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and Twitter provide an immediate look at a person’s influence. Are they well connected? Do they have a lot of followers? Are they active on YouTube? How many views have their videos had? While these metrics are far from perfect, they remain valuable when you consider the time it takes to check them. You can check a speaker’s social media presence in less than 2 minutes. So when you compile the list of prospective speakers for your selection committee, include their social media statistics.
Tip #4: Keynote or Platform?
There is an important distinction in the speaking business. About 90% of speakers are “platform” speakers. Only 10% are “keynote” speakers. Platform speakers are always trying to sell something. Keynote speakers do not. The destination of a platform speech is the SALE. The destination of a keynote speech is the MESSAGE. Make sure you hire a keynote speaker. Nothing can ruin an event quicker than “an offer” during your general session!
Patrick Schwerdtfeger is a leading authority on self-employment and the author of the award-winning book, Marketing Shortcuts for the Self-Employed (2011, Wiley). He is a regular speaker for Bloomberg TV and has spoken about business trends, modern entrepreneurship and the social media revolution at conferences and business events around the world.
Patrick’s past books include Webify Your Business: Internet Marketing Secrets for the Self-Employed (2009) and Make Yourself Useful: Marketing in the 21st Century (2008). He has been featured by the New York Times, LA Times, San Francisco Chronicle, CNN Money, Fortune, Bloomberg Businessweek, the Associated Press, MONEY Magazine and Forbes, among others.
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