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Ask the Expert – Speaker Selection

By: Ted Miller, HMCC, CHME, CHSP, CGTP, CGMP, Enterprise Holdings | Jun 9, 2021

Question: In the past, we have always used our senior executives to be the speakers at our conferences. While some can communicate quite well, we have several who are true experts in the field but do not have the presence to be a standalone speaker. How can we use their skills and put them into an environment where they can feel comfortable?

Answer: There are many people who have great knowledge but are naturally not great speakers in a standalone environment. Where you can use people like this is to have them be part of a panel discussion where the moderator can direct specific questions to them to address. This format also allows you to invite pre-conference questions that can be directed to members of the panel. The best way to use this format is having someone develop the questions to be asked first and then assemble the panel members who are best able to address each question.

Question: We have attended many conferences where independent speakers have been booked to cover a topic or address certain issues that are the main theme of the conference. How do you select a speaker who is not only an expert but will be well-received at our conference?

Answer: The list of independent speakers is quite large, and you need an expert to help to narrow down your choices from a point of cost and abilities to address your audience. Use a speakers’ bureau to give you the options available and then request a video of each speaker to review each one that interests you. Once you have narrowed your list further, then make a point to speak to them and be very specific about the topic and the material you want them to present. Also, make a point to advise them about people at your conference who might be offended by certain remarks and terms you want them to avoid. Doing as much pre-screening as possible will show in their reception by the audience.

Question: We recently booked a speaker for an event this fall and just heard them speak at an event and were not impressed with them. How do we move to change the speaker and is there a cost to cancel their contract?

Answer: First, if you used a speakers’ bureau, have them help you replace the speaker with a more suitable choice. Be aware that in most speakers’ contracts you will find that when you book them there is a usually a nonrefundable deposit. When a speaker is booked for a date, they are no longer available to be booked by another organization and must decline other booking requests for that date. This is a normal business practice and one that should not surprise you. If you feel the speaker you booked is the wrong choice, pay the cancellation fee. It will be a small cost compared to the issues they could create at your event not being the appropriate choice.

Question: How should you prepare for the unforeseen situation of having a key speaker not show at your conference or cancel at the last minute?

Answer: When you plan a conference every great meeting professional will tell you that you must plan for the worst situations from the beginning. It would be rather difficult to have someone standing by who is of the same caliber, but you can have alternate topics that can be presented using the other speakers in your program. Prior to your conference, make sure you have a meeting or a conference call to discuss such an event happening, and have a specific plan in place ready to be used. If you plan ahead for problems, they can be handled with organization instead of panic.



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Ted Miller, HMCC, CHME, CHSP, CGTP, CGMP, Enterprise Holdings

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