Originally published by Florida Speakers Association

What Your Organization Gets

When Retaining a Professional Speaker

by Rene Gnam, Marketing Consultant

Meeting planners have enough to do without worrying about their speakers.

That's the main reason why a professional speaker serves you well.

Here are the other reasons:

  1. The professional does not arrive just in time. He does arrive way ahead of time, usually the night before he is scheduled to appear.

    He knows the value of a good night's rest so he can be in peak condition for your event. He does not trust a tight flight connection or the last possible flight. He knows cabs often can't be found. So he leaves his locale with plenty of time to arrive relatively unstressed.

  2. The professional does not steal your thunder. He does blend with your goals.

    He knows your event has been carefully planned to achieve specific company or association objectives. With great care, he plans his presentation to dovetail with the objectives you thoughtfully described to him.

  3. The professional does not speak off the cuff. He does prepare a proper presentation.

    Your assemblage may believe the professional is an ad lib artist, or a friendly communicator who just happened to think of a particular remark at a particular time. The truth is: the professional speaker has planned, timed and rehearsed those brilliant remarks. He gives a studied performance to suit your group.

    Yes, he modifies his remarks when on your stage -- to suit your audience. But he knows that an off-the-cuff speech or keynote or seminar falls flat on its face far more often than drawing a standing ovation. That's why you hear him as a warm, inventive, think-on-his-feet speaker, when he is actually extending his full faculties to appear that way with his totally-prepared presentation.

  4. The professional does not give a canned address. He does read your audience.

    Oh, he may open his presentation with a few lines from his personal repertoire. But while your delegates concentrate or chuckle at his opening, he is using that opening as study time -- time to read faces, to notice itchy bodies, to get a feel for audience warmth or lack of it, to determine an audience's mood, to gauge reactions to his voice level or speaking pace, to decide whether these folks have been sitting there too long.

    Then, while no one notices, he makes adjustments -- adjustments in his outside temperament, his body language, his inflections, his emphasis points, his pitch, his pace, his face.

    The information or material he presents will be just as he planned it with you, but you'll see an audience that becomes more enthused and involved as the professional continues.

    And as he continues, he makes more changes, again to adapt to your attendees. That's why his concluding remarks get applause.

    Because he IS not in front of your audience. He is with your audience.

  5. The professional does not get his training at your expense. He is fully trained.

    You shouldn't, but you can surprise him with a radio microphone, videotape cameras, alternate chalkboard media, extra flip charts, a new room arrangement, simultaneous or transition translation. He knows how to handle those situations.

    That's important to you when the a/v people sleep late, or the conference facility places the electrical outlets where you didn't want them, or the hotel setup crew thinks a blackboard is a wooden board painted black.

    And how important that professional training is to you when the caterer is 10 minutes late with your coffee break! After all, You planned that meeting and You can't allow all those wonderful people to get fidgety wondering where the coffee is. Relax. The professional can handle it smoothly.

  6. The professional does not complain or make you look bad when things don't go precisely right. He does adapt to the situation so you look good.

    Can things go wrong? Frequently. But usually it's not your fault. Imagine this situation:

    You succeeded in getting 126 Danish executives you never met to pay a hefty fee to hear your American speaker present marketing techniques in a Copenhagen hotel ballroom. He's just switched them from speaking Danish to listening to American English with a slide and sound presentation, when a workman outside the hotel cuts one cable and the entire hotel is plunged into darkness.

    No mics. No slides. No lights. No tapes. No sound system. But my seminar proceeded, for an hour and quarter in the dark, and no one walked out. (Blackout audiences in Anaheim, Oakland and New York were harder to handle.)

    Why do I tell you this story? Because the most carefully-planned meeting, orchestrated by the most skillful planner, can run into Murphy's Law.

    The professional does not panic. He does hold your audience.

  7. The professional does not surprise you. He does convey the information or present the program material for which You contracted.

    You may agree in advance that he can distribute certain materials, but they are subject to your review.

    You may agree in advance that he should use certain references to your company, your industry, your field, your members, but he will not use those references disparagingly.

    You may be startled to see last-minute guests of your attendees, and perhaps they won't fit the general description of your delegates. But the professional won't use any denegrating remarks, or ethnic jokes, or puns that might embarrass you to those delegates who brought their friends.

    If there's one male in your female audience, he'll feel right at home. Vice versa? Of course. How can you know for sure? Because the professional does not use verbal crutches to communicate. He does communicate naturally.

  8. The professional does not shock you. He does set and agree to all charges in advance.

    Since his fee and airfare are paid in advance, you have no surprisingly higher bills later. His meals and his ground transportation and his hotel bills? Don't worry. He won't take 16 friends out for filet mignon on your bill.

    A cordial or two? Not before he speaks.

    And he probably will thank you for offering him that filet just before he speaks. But he'll take a rain check. He is a pro, and he does know, that a tummy show is a no no.

  9. The professional does not wait until the last minute to decide what he'll speak about. He does develop his presentation in advance and hone it finely.

    To do this, he'll ask you questions about your group. He's not prying. He knows he can do a better job for you if you can define your audience as corporate ladder climbers or self-made entrepreneurs, executive mothers or hand-holding nurses, salespeople or sales managers. All are fine, but what a difference advance info means to a successful speaking engagement!

    Your answers to his questions will enable him to form an outline. Then he'll construct his presentation from his existing material, modify it for your event, rewrite, create some original material strictly for your attendees, rehearse, think it through again, and then review it at least umpteen times more.

  10. The professional does not steal material from other speakers. He does use strictly original material in an original way, so you never have to worry that your audience may have "heard that before".

    Yes, he may quote a reference source or a famous person, or he may tell a story about someone your group would recognize or use a mini case-history that demonstrates a point. That's part of the art of speaking. But he'll never claim he originated something that Johnny Carson said.

  11. The professional does not treat your event lightly. He does treat speaking seriously because that's his way of earning a living.

    That's why he's always "on stage" from the moment he arrives in your city.

    Much like the professional footballer who psyches himself up for a Sunday afternoon, your pro speaker thinks only of your group on the plane, while dining, while showering, while walking to the podium. He is 100% your man (or woman) for the time you have hired him -- and he will not permit anything to come between him and an engaging presentation.

    So please excuse him if he excuses himself from your night-before tour of the town. He'll probably go back to his hotel room, study and rehearse some more, and wish he was partying with your guys. The next day, he will be!

  12. The professional does not end his presentation late, or early. He does use his speaking time meaningfully, interestingly, helpfully, engagingly.

    Running on at the mouth would not be fair to your program schedule. Ending early creates nervous vacuums.

    Your life is so much easier with a professional, because he recognizes that you have timed your program for very good reason.

  13. The professional does not depart immediately after his last words. He does make himself available to your attendees for their private questions, their individual problems seeking resolution, and -- yes, their kind comments on all the work he did to prepare and deliver.

    He knows that "I only came for the show" is a slight to you and your guests. So he'll handshake and mingle a bit, as appropriate to the nature of the event. Perhaps you'll be at his side to share these moments.

  14. The professional does not pitch you for additional engagements immediately after his conclusion. He does remain attentive to your program concerns at all times.

Yes, he modifies his remarks when on your stage -- to suit your audience. But he knows that an off-the-cuff speech or keynote or seminar falls flat on its face far more often than drawing a standing ovation. That's why you hear him as a warm, inventive, think-on-his-feet speaker, when he is actually extending his full faculties to appear that way with his totally-prepared presentation.

He might like to come back, or work with you on a new project. But he'll save all that for a letter, so you can continue your program work with a clear mind.

You thought there was only one reason to retain a professional speaker? You're right! Here it is:

Meeting planners have enough to do without worrying about their speakers.


Rene Gnam is an independent response marketing consultant

specializing in creative advertising techniques.

He can be reached at 813-407-8400

 or info@ReneGnam.com

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Rene Gnam is a Marketing Consultant and Advertising Copywriter

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