Event Planners: Ever wondered what separates a great event speaker from a good one? Discover the 5 critical considerations you shouldn’t overlook

Choosing the right speaker for your event isn’t just another item on your to-do list; it’s a pivotal decision that shapes the event’s outcome and its impact on attendees. Many event planners face the challenge of navigating through uncharted waters, uncertain of the best practices for selecting a speaker. The stakes are high, as the wrong choice can lead to lasting negative repercussions for both the event and your professional reputation. To guide you through this crucial process, I share questions I commonly discuss with event planners during our consultations.

Part 1: Confirming the Basics

First, ensure all basic but essential details are addressed, including:

  • Date, Time, and Duration: Ensuring the speaker is available for your scheduled event.
  • Format and Location: Clarify whether the event is virtual or in-person, including country and venue address if applicable.
  • Room Layout: Important for in-person events to accommodate the speaker’s needs.
  • Audience Details: Knowing the number and profile of the audience (Leaders, Management level, Other Stakeholders, Employees, etc.) helps tailor the content.

Part 2: Understanding the Event’s Objective

Delve into the heart of your event by discussing its primary objective. Understanding the ‘why’ behind the event at this moment helps tailor the speaker’s message:

  • Raising awareness on a particular topic.
  • Increasing attendees’ knowledge.
  • Inspiring the audience.
  • Changing thinking and mindsets.
  • Addressing another specific goal.
  • Consider whether this event is a standalone effort or part of a longer-term initiative, as this affects the depth of engagement required from the speaker.

Part 3: Defining Success

A clear vision of success is crucial. Discuss what you hope the audience will:

  • Say: The takeaways and discussions you want to encourage through the speaker
  • Do: Actions or changes you hope to inspire through the speaker
  • Feel: The emotional impact or connection you want the speaker to achieve amongst the audience
  • Communicate: How you want the event and speaker to be described post-event.

This clarity helps in aligning the speaker’s approach with your event’s goals.

Part 4: Measuring Outcomes

Determining the metrics for success is vital:

  • How will you measure the outcomes of the event?
  • Do you have existing tools or methods to gauge success?
  • Have similar metrics been measured in previous events?

These questions ensure you have a framework to assess the event’s impact accurately.

Part 5: Evaluating Speaker Expertise

Assessing a speaker’s fit involves looking beyond their resume to their relevance and impact:

  • Relevance of Previous Engagements: Ensure their past speaking engagements align with your event’s theme.
  • Years of Experience and Expertise: Inquire about their experience and areas of expertise.
  • Supporting Resources: Request a speaker reel, testimonials, and references to gauge their effectiveness and professionalism.
  • Scorecard for Impact Measurement: Ask if they have a method to measure the ‘Before & After’ impact on key metrics.
  • Watch for Red Flags: Be cautious of slow response times, communication breakdowns, or any signs of unprofessional behaviour.

Understanding the Repercussions of a Poor Choice

Before delving into mitigation strategies, it’s crucial to comprehend the potential consequences of selecting the wrong speaker. The implications extend beyond the event itself, potentially affecting your professional reputation and future opportunities:

  • Questioning of Your Judgment: A poorly chosen speaker can lead event attendees and organizers to doubt your decision-making skills.
  • Impact on Leadership Abilities: Your capacity to lead and make strategic decisions may come under scrutiny.
  • Trust Erosion: Failure in this aspect could lead stakeholders to hesitate before entrusting you with critical projects in the future.
  • Career Growth Impediment: A significant misstep in speaker selection can stall your career progression, as it may be seen as a reflection of your overall competency.

Strategies for Mitigating Risks

To mitigate the risks associated with choosing the wrong speaker:

  • Have a Backup Plan: Always prepare for unforeseen circumstances by having alternative speakers in mind.
  • Conduct Thorough Q&A Sessions: Engage potential speakers in detailed discussions to assess their understanding of your event’s objectives and their ability to connect with your audience.
  • Assess Engagement and Flexibility: Ensure the speaker is willing to tailor their message to your audience’s needs and show genuine interest in making your event successful.
  • Use of Technology and Visual Aids: Evaluate the speaker’s proficiency in using technology and visual aids to enhance their presentation.
  • Preparation and Customization of Content: Determine the effort the speaker puts into customizing their content for your specific event and audience.
  • Follow-up Resources and Engagement: Consider whether the speaker offers follow-up resources or engagement opportunities post-event.
  • Experience with Virtual and Hybrid Formats: If applicable, assess the speaker’s experience with virtual or hybrid event formats.
  • Interactive Engagement Strategies: Look for speakers who employ interactive strategies to engage the audience beyond traditional speeches.

The decision to select a speaker for your event carries weight far beyond the presentation itself. It’s a reflection of your judgment, leadership, and commitment to the event’s success. Understanding the serious repercussions of a poor choice, it becomes clear why allocating a sufficient budget for this aspect is non-negotiable. By considering the outlined factors, conducting a rigorous evaluation, and preparing for potential risks, you can significantly increase the likelihood of your event’s success and your continued professional growth.

About the author

VIVEK IYYANI is a Millennial & Gen Z specialist and Professional Speaker at Millennial Minds Pte Ltd. He is an award-winning author of 4 books, namely "Empowering Millennials", "Engaging Millennials", "The Millennial Leader" and "Marketing to Millennials". He has spoken at organisations like Brunei Government, Paypal, Oracle, Booking.com, Singapore General Hospital, and many more. He has been featured by the National Population and Talent Division (NPTD) under the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) to feature in a video of #MySingaporeStory. He has also appeared on CNBC and Channel NewsAsia as a guest on the Gen Z topic. Vivek is known in his industry to speak at conferences on topics around Generational Diversity.


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