Six Ways to Make Your Meetings More Memorable
Words to Live By
By Patricia Fripp
In a perfect world, you would have an unlimited budget to hire top keynote speakers for all your meetings and conventions. Since you don’t, here are some proven suggestions that have been successfully incorporated by many companies and associations. Adopt them into your meeting-planning process and become a hero for getting the most for your meeting dollar.
One seasoned association executive director had six days of speaking and seminar slots to fill. As part of the overall convention, instead of assigning each slot to a different speaker, she suggested to the conference committee that they maximize the contribution of a few top presenters, hiring three of them to fill three different roles. That’s how they made 1 + 1 + 1 = 9. Three speakers used in three ways equals nine slots filled.
Here’s how such a move can save your organization time and money and let you trade up to professional speakers you might have thought you couldn’t afford.
Save on Hotels and Airfare
Cutting the number of speakers will most likely reduce the total nights of lodging needed. You will definitely save on transportation — for instance, three round trips versus nine.
Speakers May Reduce Fee
Many speakers will conduct multiple presentations for the same fee and discount several days in the same location. Perhaps your prior speakers might have been more flexible if you had only thought to ask, “after your keynote, could you conduct a breakout session?” or “while you are here, could you emcee one morning?” or “could you moderate a panel?” Even, “our chairman is a bit nervous. Could you coach him on the opening of his keynote speech?”
Speakers and trainers who travel across country will frequently charge considerably less for three consecutive days at one hotel, rather than three separate dates months apart.
The Answer Is ‘No’ If You Don’t Ask
One Realtors Assoc. event organizer asked, “after your luncheon speech, could you deliver a breakout seminar on your topic and go deeper?” That thrilled the speaker, who wanted to prove he had more to offer than the 45 minutes of ideas presented in his keynote speech.
One seasoned professional speaker always makes a habit of suggesting a breakout following her keynote. One of her clients said, “well, the agenda is already slotted in. However, we’d love it if you would emcee our ‘Top Producers’ panel, the first breakout session after lunch.”
It’s Easier to Get Sponsors
Trading up to a more seasoned or bigger-name speaker makes it easier for you to get sponsors. If you have ever said, “we can’t afford your fee,” instead ask, “if we can find a sponsor to help pay for your presentation, would you be willing to have a book signing in their booth?”
Who would sponsor your event? Consider approaching the exhibitors at your conventions or whoever sells to your members or whoever wants good PR with the people in the audience. List these ‘angels’ prominently in the program and meeting audio-visual presentations.
At many conventions, the sponsor has the opportunity to introduce the speaker and handle the Q and A. Ahead of time, introduce your speakers to their sponsors, and encourage them to incorporate a couple of lines into their presentation that tie into their sponsor.
For example, one keynote speaker, in her speech to an 800-person audience at a national convention, thrilled the association, audience, and sponsor. After her opening story, she quoted the founder of her corporate sponsor, gave examples from the sponsor’s newsletters to reinforce her points, and incorporated its name in her walk-away line.
When your speakers are wise enough to feature their sponsors in their presentations, you will not have a problem getting sponsorship for future conferences.
Three Invaluable Bonuses
Having speakers on hand throughout your event gives you far greater flexibility in scheduling. In case of a last-minute speaker cancellation or no show, they can substitute. And continuity can establish a powerful connection between audience and speakers.
With six days of speaking and seminar slots to fill, our seasoned association executive director said, “we found that, when we triple-book speakers, they become even more popular, really getting to know our association members, who always enjoy their staying around longer. Our members feel they know them as friends when they can talk to them in the trade show and after-hour events as the speakers are with us for several days.”
Continuity, during an event or from year to year, means your speakers are able to notice and volunteer to help your organization in special ways you may not have considered.
More Bang for Your Buck
Many successful meeting planners are able to negotiate with their speakers for extras.
Wise speakers figure that, as long as they are there anyway and are being paid well, their time belongs to the client. Therefore, they are happy to take on extra tasks.
The next time you are planning a conference, consider the multiple ways you might incorporate your speakers’ talents. In addition to what you are engaging them to do, it doesn’t hurt to ask if the speaker would be willing to do one of these:
• Deliver one or two breakout sessions to the schedule;
• Add a partner/guest program;
• Introduce other speakers;
• Emcee part of the event;
• Moderate a panel;
• Coach company or association leaders on their presentations; or
• Appear in the sponsor’s booth to make their sponsorship more of an investment.
If your speaker does not ask how else he can serve you, perhaps you should consider continuing the search.
Patricia Fripp is a keynote speaker, executive speech coach, and sales presentation skills trainer. Meetings and Conventions magazine named her “one of the most electrifying speakers in North America.” She is virtually everywhere with her online learning platform FrippVT. Many of the courses earn continuing-education credits earned through XtraCredits.