What makes a good conference speaker?
The speaker you choose to book for your conference can make or break the event. Listening to a brilliant orator deliver a relevant message that teaches you something new is a real pleasure, while having to suffer a monotonic, irrelevant bore telling you something you already know can ruin an entire event for the audience.
Hiring speakers in the past was often a bit of a lottery. The better-known ones come with good credentials, however, taking a chance on someone without a strong reputation could be nerve-wracking. Today, social media allows speakers to promote themselves and solicit reviews far more easily. Event organisers have far more information at their fingertips. Here are some more points to consider when looking for your next speaker.
In this day of feedback, reviews and social media self-promotion, the most successful speakers tend to be those who market themselves pro-actively and respond quickly to the feedback they receive. Look for signs that your potential speakers know how to use social media. For example, do they answer questions quickly and update their pages and directory entries regularly? How do they deal with reviews, both good and bad? This will give you a good idea of how well they will interact with your audience 'in the flesh'.
There is an ongoing demand for speakers to use technology in their presentations, from PowerPoint presentations to live video streaming. Knowing that a speaker is able to use modern technology to his or her advantage is a large benefit to an audience that will appreciate the additional visual stimuli. If a speaker can provide their own equipment and/or help set things up at the venue, that too is a point in their favour. Choose speakers who move with the times and who are not afraid to embrace new methods of using technology to get their message across.
Be very wary of speakers offering to address your event for free. Despite the obvious appeal to your budget, this can be a sign that they are not experienced at speaking, do not carry out in-depth research or have a strong agenda of their own to push, politically or otherwise. It is a far better option to pick someone who rates themselves highly enough to request reasonable financial reimbursement for their time. 'Reasonable' is the watch word here; don't get fooled into paying over the odds, especially if you are approaching a celebrity or someone who is well-known in their field. Get quotes and read online reviews before handing over the cheque.
The best speakers show genuine empathy with their audiences and want them to go away with new information and renewed energy. If you don't get the impression that a speaker cares about the impact their words will have on your event, then look elsewhere. A great speaker will get to know their audience, care about their issues, engage them in debate and act on their feedback.
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