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Make no mistake about it: the quality of a speaker’s performance at your event will primarily be his or her own responsibility. Good speakers know there’s no substitute for preparation—which includes asking some good questions of the event host long before taking the stage.
As someone who has had the opportunity to speak at several conferences and training sessions, however, I know how valuable it can be to have a little help from the event coordinator. There have been times when they’ve remembered details I may have forgotten or identified issues I would not have anticipated. So, if you want to rely upon more than crossed fingers when it comes to positioning your speaker for success, here are a few things you can do to make it more likely that they will exceed your expectations:
1. Button up the details well in advance. Create a simple form that details all the specifics, including the time and location (including address). It’s hard for your speakers to focus on preparing for your event, after all, if they spend too much time trying to remember where and when they need to arrive. And it’s going to be very hard for them to succeed, of course, if they show up at the wrong place or time.
2. Clearly articulate how much time the speaker has and whether that includes Q & A. Most good speakers can adapt to long or short time slots, but only if they know expectations in advance. If you want a lengthy Q & A to be part of the presentation, make sure the speaker knows whether that’s included in his or her time allotment, or is supplemental.
3. Be clear on A/V arrangements. Given that today’s presentations are usually highly dependent on technology, nothing throws speakers off their game more quickly than technical difficulties—or worse yet, a lack of technology when they’re expecting it to be provided for them. There’s no shame in asking speakers to bring their own equipment, but neglecting to request it when it won’t be provided by the venue is a recipe for disaster.
4. However, let the speaker use his or her own laptop whenever possible. It may be convenient to the event to have all speakers present from the same laptop, but it poses several potential problems, including incompatible fonts and mismatched versions of PowerPoint. Whenever possible, then, let the speaker present from his or her own laptop. You’ll also avoid catching a virus from someone’s flash drive or opening your laptop up to security breaches.
5. Make sure they know your goal—and make it reasonable. All speakers crave a theme, a central point that holds everything together. So why not give them one that’s aligned with the event’s goal? Just be sure to avoid encouraging your speakers to pack too much into their talk. Giving them one central focus—one thing you want the audience to walk away with—is better than giving them ten objectives of equal weight.
A great event requires attention to a lot of little details, and quite a bit of time. Even though it adds a few more minutes to your commitment, however, the time you devote to preparation is an investment in ensuring that you—and your speaker—leave fewer things to chance.