Finding a Speaker for Your Mental Health Event
Having the right speaker at your event is crucial. It's easy to be swept away by big names and get distracted by the celebrity, which, ultimately, can put you in a bad position, because the entire focus of the event will shift away from the original goal. Which isn't to say that big names are a no-go: quite often, the status these professional speakers possess is well-deserved and is a way of knowing they will deliver quality – but not if they are being divas, or are overly focused on themselves, instead of their or your audience. Because of this, it's incredibly important to find the right speaker for your event.
“It seems like everyone and their grandmother is a ‘speaker’ these days... but the fact is, not everyone has the background and, frankly, the personality or communication skills to speak and truly engage an audience for an hour or more" says Bill Lee, VP of Client Development at Eagle Talent Speakers Bureau, a company advising and supporting organizers in selecting the best possible speakers for their events.
When you choose a speaker, you place not only your own, but your audience's trust onto that speaker, and making sure you place that trust in the right person is the single most important thing. If your audience's trust in you is once broken, it's insanely hard (if not impossible) to rebuild.
In order to help with maintaining that trust, here are seven questions you have to ask yourself when looking for speakers.
Are they going to deliver something unique?
Isn't it frustrating when you go to an event, and hear the exact same thing all over again? Maybe even from the same person. It's logical, professional speaking takes practice, and a lot of speakers probably spend weeks going over their speeches over and over until they get it just right. But herein lies the problem. No one will attend an event to hear the same thing they can find on YouTube several times over, word for word. Make sure to ask your potential speaker what they'll deliver, and how they plan on keeping the audience engaged.
Do they really care enough to make an effort, or will they bail?
Speakers are often seen as more than human by their audiences, and leaving that stand after a speaking engagement is bad practice. There is only so much to be achieved in an hour-long keynote, but sticking around afterwards to speak with the attendees willmake them feel special and humanize the speaker, and that can make all the difference. Ask the potential speaker if they are willing to stay awhile after their speech to connect with the audience.
Do they go the extra mile?
It's a common mistake to think that simply booking a certain speaker and using their name as a marketing event will draw in enough people to sell out on tickets. That's wrong, and most events that rely on that will go under. Ask the speaker you invite if they are willing to help you attract attendees, by spreading the news of your event with their own network and getting other influencers involved as well - this can also make it more easily justifiable to pay their bill.
Do their message and the goals of your event line up?
Amazing speeches are, of course, amazing. But that alone, and the hype they create can only go so far before fading, leaving you with your goals unaccomplished. Your speakers will have to be able to merge your goals with their content, because aligning those two things are what makes an event successful. Tell your speaker what success of your event means, so they can do their best to communicate that through their own message.
Are they authentic?
There is, of course, a difference between actors and teachers. It's easy to stand up on a podium, look down at an audience, and say what you will from afar, be that realor made up. This will do nothing for connecting with an audience. People want a connection with speakers, want to see the human, with their own failuresandsuccesses, actual experiences that make them real. Of actors who pretend to know and teachers who really do, you will always want the latter.
Are they flexible?
It has been said plenty of times, I'll say it once more: trust your instincts. Speakers are not - or shouldn't act like, even if they are - celebrities, and as such, they shouldn't expect to be pampered. Some better-known names can make ridiculous demands, and ultimately will be more trouble than they are worth. Watch out over the course of your first few interactions, and if they come across as bothersome or as divas, just cut ties, and look for a better match - quite like dating.
Are they reliable?
Good speakers will stand by their word. They will be where they said they would, when they said they would. Committing to something and having others count on it to be followed through, it just has to be done, no exceptions - it's one of the most basic and important principles of trust, both between the audience and you, and you and the speaker. There are emergencies in life, but good speakers will even then be ready to do everything in their power to help you fill the absence, or even offer backup speakers.
In conclusion. celebrities and the most well-known speakers aren't always the right ones. It's easy to get swayed by the glimmer of fame, but asking yourself these questions as you select speakers for your event will help you, and your audience will be grateful.
The 8 sure signs of you hiring the awesome speaker
Now, the essential traits of a professional speaker are well-known: charisma, eloquence, presence, a knack for storytelling, a pretty smile. And of course, these are very valid characteristics, but the world, and with it, the requirements of audiences change, and speakers must adapt to this. As a result, finding the right and best speakers isn't as simple as it used to be.
When you are looking for a speaker for your upcoming event, keep these trends in mind and watch out for the following signs. Spotting one ore more of them will mean you found someone who is well-aware of the changing nature of requirements, and are a safe bet for your event and audience.
8. A healthy online presence
With everyone and everything online, the modern speaker must recognize the importance (and harness!) the power of social media.
A good speaker will have a healthy and engaged following on different social networks. Look for signs of positive engagement and meaningful content.
Plus, a great speaker will use these same channels to support the events they attend, understanding it's vital to back up an event that invested in them, and will help create online exposure for them using their own following.
7. No "pro bono" speeches
Everyone wants to save money, of course, but there are just things you cannot go the cheap route with. Getting a speaker to your event is one of these.
Both organizers and speakers can be (and are) guilty of this, but what they don't realize is that simply offering exposure in return for a free event can and will not end well. The speaker will be less motivated to do their very best, and it will end up a bad experience for your audience.
A professional speaker puts considerable time and energy into their speeches, every single one, researching the audience, the subject, and is personally committed to the success of the event. All of that isn't (and cannot be!) free.
If a speaker doesn't charge a fee for attending your event, I would question what I can actually expect from them, and be reluctant to go with them.
6. They know their Audio-Visual requirements
You want your speaker to be aware of exactly what AV they want at your event. You
want to know it in advance and in detail, because tech failing is the very last thing you want.
This still has nothing to do with the actual performing skills of the speaker, it's a great way to know if they are serious about their speech. If they are aware (and clearly communicate) the AV equipment they need to give their very best presentation, it can make the entire event into an easy-flowing experience.
5. Professionally designed, visually pleasing slides
In today's day and age, it's simply unacceptable to have slides with no colour, unreadable text, throwing in Comic Sans and decade-old effects.
Today, people are used to well-designed, interactive visual content, and modern speakers have to understand that. Using proper slide design to help in conveying the message of their speech is invaluable and cannot be overstated in its importance.
4. They want the opinion of the audience
Having your audience fill out quick surveys to provide feedback should be (it practically is, if you are shooting for quality) a requirement of any event: see what they enjoyed most, what was the most engaging part, what they think could be improved.
When looking for a speaker, ask them if they survey the audience, even for some past survey examples. People nowadays want to be involved, and who doesn't love to share their opinion? Providing an opportunity for that will let them digest the content and stay engaged.
3. They know the audience - perfectly
You want to avoid speakers who don't even ask about who will be attending the event. If they don't bother about that, they will deliver a "stock" speech that's been probably presented, word for word, plenty of times.
Tailoring the content of your event to your audience is key, and the highest priority. The same is true for the professional speaker you bring in, they have to be flexible in adjusting their content to your audience.
If they ask extensively about the attendees, available demographics you have on them, the objective of your event and what you wish to teach and/orrelay to the audience, you are probably talking to the right speaker.
Failing to do so, however, will, no exceptions, result in a boring, disappointing event that no one attendee will enjoy, and will regret paying for.
2. They understand horizontal interaction
It's tough to listen to someone (anyone!) for an hour on end, and you don't want a speaker who's not aware of that, or who doesn't know how to keep it fresh all the way through.
A good speaker will realize the need for horizontal interaction, advocating conversations discussing the topics in groups to stimulate their minds and enhance critical thinking. The attendees will take responsibility for their own learning this way, and it will ultimately mean much better satisfaction from the audience. The speaker you want will know this.
1. They bring meaningful content
There is nothing more important for your event than the content, and it's the speaker's job to bring it.
Events are (or supposed to be) powerboats of incredible and stimulating content, especially given the power of amplification social media has. A good speaker will bring blog posts, tweets, YouTube videos, pictures, articles, and so on, whatever kind of content will make the event even more interactive and engaged.
They will understand that there is an opportunity to become the "hero" of your event, and they will be committed to achieving that, before, during and after the show itself.
Don't be afraid to ask more of your speakers, that's what you pay them for (and pay them!). Demand awareness of what the job actually means and what are your expectations and goals. Do be respectful of the speakers who try hard and are self-aware instead of narcissistic.
Don't give up charisma, storytelling ability, presence or eloquence for any of the points listed, but strive to combine as many of them as possible in your speakers. Hard as it may seem, the right speaker for your event is out there, and paying attention to what's important will leave you with powerhouse of engagement and incredible content.