7 Tips to Keep Your Event Speakers Coming Back

*The following post has been written by guest blogger, Kristen McCabe, from G2 Crowd. G2 Crowd is the leading website for online business software and service reviews, where EventMobi ranks as a High Performer on the Summer 2018 Mobile Event Apps Report.
Event speakers are essential to a successful event marketing strategy.

Event marketing is a powerful strategy for B2C and B2B marketers, and for good reason. Because it gets results. In fact, 75 percent of B2B marketers rated in-person events as the most effective marketing tactic.

The most common goal of a B2B event is often related to educating attendees. And, for attendees to learn, they need someone to learn from, aka — your speaker!

Take it from Cathy McPhillips, Vice-President of Marketing for the Content Marketing Institute. She works with a team of 26 hard working folks to execute Content Marketing World, an annual event with close to 4,000 attendees.

When sharing her event management tips, Cathy stresses the importance of relevant and engaging speakers, saying, “Speakers are critical to the event. If we can’t deliver on speakers, we’re not doing our job right.”

So, once you’ve found speakers who attract an audience and resonate with your employees, you want to keep them happy, right?

It makes sense. Happy speakers lead to happy attendees.

When everything runs smoothly, your speakers are able to give their best possible presentation. No one likes to be caught off guard — that only leads to mistakes and frustrations.

Satisfied speakers have a direct impact on your event marketing strategy as a whole. In-demand speakers are, by nature, influencers. When these people have a positive interaction with you and your brand, they are more likely to become your event advocates.

Don’t forget that a positive experience increases the chance of a speaker returning to present for you again, too!

How do you keep your event speakers happy?

The best way is by showing your appreciation and paying attention to details, meaning keep the speaker’s needs a constant priority.

Events involve so many tasks, it’s critical to ensure no details related to speakers slip off your event planning checklist. Get it wrong and speakers will be unwilling to promote your event. (Plus, who knows what they may say about you to their peers on the speaker circuit!)

Follow these six guidelines to ensure your event speakers will be ready and willing to accept your call year after year!

1. Secure a dedicated speaker room

Have a dedicated space for your event speakers. This will give them the opportunity to do any last-minute preparation for their speech. Alternatively, they may have pre-presentation rituals, like needing a few moments of quiet to gather their thoughts before presenting.

A speaker room also gives them the ability to catch up on their work, including emails and private phone calls. It’s hard for speakers to do this when they are in a conference hall surrounded by event guests wanting to ask them questions!

In addition, make sure there is a safe place for your speaker to leave their items. Many times, they are headed straight to the airport after their session. You don’t want them (or you!) to feel panicked if something goes missing.

2. Pre-event communications, deadlines, and approvals

First thing’s first: Don’t get your speaker’s headshot, title, and biography from a random Google search. And, even if you’re 99 percent sure it’s their official speaking headshot, make sure you get approval before putting it on your event website or program.

This shouldn’t be news. You may be tight on time and looking up your speakers on the internet might be the quickest way, but just because you found a title on the internet doesn’t mean it’s accurate. Plus, you never know when an individual’s role may be changing, resulting in a new title. They could even switch to a new company altogether.

Most importantly, you don’t want to risk using a headshot your speaker hates!

When asking for speaker information, be sure to give a deadline for all materials. This includes finalizing the session’s topic and title.

You also need approval for post-event communications. Some presenters are willing to share their PowerPoint slides with event attendees. For others, this is a definite no-no.

Don’t forget about video approvals. For example, if you film the presentation and would like to put any part of it on your YouTube channel, you need to have their permission to do so.

You’ll also want to make sure you have presentation slides from your speaker before the event day. This will give you time to test them on your Audio/Visual equipment on site, with time to troubleshoot technical difficulties if needed.

3. Find an additional point of contact

We just looked at getting approval for all event materials related to your event speakers. It’s important to remember that these VIPs are busy people with tight schedules. Many times, you will be communicating with a speaker’s assistant or one of their co-workers. If one is not provided, it is beneficial to ask for a second point of contact.

An executive assistant (EA) will help ensure that all deadlines are met. This is critical when you have printing deadlines for the conference program (or you can skip this stress by investing in an event app where changes can be made on the fly). Meeting that deadline requires approval on the speaker’s headshot, title, presentation title, and session summary.  

If a busy speaker is taking a long time to reply to your emails, you don’t want to feel as if you’re getting pushy. Most EAs are familiar with doing the legwork for you, following up (and persisting when necessary) to ensure deadlines are met.

4. Coordinate transportation information

As part of the agreement you have set up with your event speakers, you will most likely be paying for their travel and accommodation. Well-renowned speakers may be accustomed to flying first class and staying in fancy hotels. It’s important to ensure you know the speaker’s expectations for travel and budget accordingly.

Some event speakers will have preferred hotels or airlines to build up their loyalty points and frequent flier miles. If you are booking the accommodation, don’t forget to ask for any preferred hotel chains or airlines. Or, instead of you arranging travel details, consider asking the speaker or their EA to book the travel and send you an invoice.

Be ready to execute travel bookings whichever way your speaker prefers.

If you are booking the flight, it is imperative you get exact details of your speaker’s schedule. They may have another event immediately after yours and a tight timeline between flights.

5. Communicate all event day details

No one likes surprises, especially when they are about to present in front of hundreds (if not thousands) of people.

Preparing your speakers for the event session will ensure their presentation runs smoothly and they enjoy their experience. When compiling information to share with your speakers, be sure you are specific on the event day agenda.

Consider the following points:

  • What time is your speaker’s presentation?  
  • What time do you need them in the presentation room for sound check?
  • How much time will there be for Q&A?
  • How will the speaker get from their accommodation to the event venue?  
  • How far is the speaker room from the presentation room?

The last thing you want is your VIP getting lost on the way to your venue! Have a member of your event planning team prepared to guide speakers throughout the event venue.

While it is essential that you share all scheduling information, you need to be across technical details as well. This is especially true for interactive presentations and Q&A — our next point on the list.

6. Plan the event speakers’ presentation’s introduction and Q&A

Speakers need someone to introduce them. This could be an executive from your company, a board member, or another individual you would like to give recognition to.

Introducing a speaker is an honor. By asking someone with clout to do the introduction, you are showing your appreciation to both the speaker and introducer. In addition, it reinforces the speaker’s VIP status.

Provide the introducer with detailed information from the speaker’s biography. What highlights should event guests be reminded of? If they are short on time, you can even write the introduction script yourself.

You also need to consider the presentation’s closing. The Q&A session is an essential part of the event’s value.

How will Q&A be conducted? Will the speaker point to attendees raising their hands, or will the event staff choose among the raised hands?

Thanks to technology, attendees can send questions digitally through an app. This is one of the most popular ways to do Q&A, as it offers many benefits. Perhaps this is why, according to Event MB, 75 percent of eventprofs in 2017 “said they would provide an event app for their attendees in the next 12 months.”

Apps enable an individual from your staff to screen questions, ensuring they are all high-quality. This way, your speaker can answer questions that give value to the majority of attendees. It is also a safeguard against any offensive questions!

Below is a customer success story from a not-for-profit organization called Venture Out. In the video, they describe how they were able to use Q&A to promote audience participation and create more engaging sessions.

Make sure you have questions pre-planned. If your audience doesn’t feel like engaging, this will ensure your speaker still feels valued and appreciated.

Pre-planned questions show why event apps are such a valuable tool for conducting Q&A. You can be assured your speaker will only answer questions that show off their expertise. Plus, questions from an app can be anonymous — meaning the audience won’t know who if they came from you and your event management team.

7. Remember to say thank you!

Don’t forget to thank your event speakers, both at the event itself and as a follow-up when the conference has finished. Send them a thank you note. In addition to an email thank you, consider going old-school with snail mail. The time it takes to hand-write a letter shows a deep level of gratitude.

Have speaker gifts ready to present at the event. They can be presented onstage at the event or personally from your CEO. Consider asking sponsors to provide the gifts.

If there was an EA or co-worker who was notably helpful in the planning process, look at sending them a small token of appreciation as well.

Who knows? They could also become your brand advocate, providing the encouragement the speaker needs to work with you again!

In conclusion: Put your event speakers first

When in doubt, put yourself in the speaker’s shoes. What information would you need to be confident speaking in front of hundreds of strangers?

Personal preference will come into play, as some event speakers may prefer specific details while others are good to go with the flow. Tune in to these preferences and be ready to answer any speaker questions in a timely manner.

Above all else, be sincere in your communications and share all information as early as possible.

Everyone wants to be recognized and appreciated for their worth. By showing your thoughtfulness and gratitude, you will have speakers ready to take your call year after year.