Where are speakers required during a conference?

  • General sessions
  • Food and Beverage events
  • Concurrent sessions
  • Panels and workshops
  • Special interest sessions

What type of speakers are most commonly used for general sessions;  luncheons;  keynote addresses?

  • Motivational Speakers
  • General Interest Speaker
  • Government Officials - the higher the rank the better
  • Industry leaders and gurus

Where do you get your speakers for your concurrent sessions and workshops, etc?

  • Industry professionals
  • Gurus and thought leaders
  • politicians - related to the field of discussion

Can be paid or volunteer

What types of speakers are there… that you can draw from for a meeting?

  • General Professional
  • Industry Professional
  • Industry Experts
  • Industry Volunteers

Where do you get your speakers from?

  •  Speakers Bureaus
  • Direct contact with a speaker
  • From within your organization
  • From related organizations
  • From government, educational institutions , etc

The Professional Speaker:  A definition:

By virtue of special circumstances or training has a message to deliver with sufficiently wide appeal to the audience being addressed.

Training is obvious:  provide some examples…

  • Ken Blanchard… The One Minute Manager
  • David Foot…  Demographics - Trends, etc
  • Warren Evans… Future Trends

These people make at least  part of their living by speaking

Special Circumstances:  They have done something spectacular - or something has happened to them

Rick Hansen,  Marnie McBean, Mark Tewkesbury, Silken Laumen,  Rick Hillier, Alvin Law

This does not necessarily make them good

Professional speakers present their views or message to others in such a way that will, hopefully, satisfy the audience’s need for:

  • Information
  • Motivation
  • Advice
  • Entertainment

The biggest challenge is to ensure the professional selected is both a great speaker and knowledgeable about what they are talking about.


How do you know if a speaker is a good choice for your group – not to mention a good speaker?

Check references

  • Talk to people who have seen him/her recently
  • See them in person if possible
  • Watch videos and try to see full presentation - not just clips
  • Don’t ever make a commitment until the quality of the presentation can be assured
  • Make sure the topic and content is relative to the audience’s needs and program objectives
  • Check biographical data on a pro…

A good professional can mold their generic topic to your profession and can stretch the presentation one way or another depending on your needs… likely won’t completely customize so don’t ask for too much


The Volunteer Speaker:

Who are volunteer speakers?

  • Members of the Organization
  • Suppliers to the Organization
  • Sister or related members of the Organization

Where do you find volunteer speakers?

  • Advertise in association’s newsletter
  • Put on the web site
  • Request for proposals
  • Send information to suppliers and affiliates
  • Talk to members, board, committee members, local organizations
  • Research those who have published papers, written articles, experiments, etc.


Develop a call for presentation that spells out

1.     What the association is looking for?

  • Outline expectations for a volunteer speaker
  • Clearly outline the purpose of the meeting and the objectives of the presentation
  • Spell out the selection criteria

2.     What the association will provide?

  • Specify what the volunteer will get for his/her efforts
  • complimentary conference registration
  • travel and accommodation
  • honorarium
  • other things...

3.     Why do we want a volunteer speaker?

  • recognition of expertise in the field
  • attendees love a peer speaking to them about their successes because they can relate to it and it provides inspiration that they can do it too (eg top producers)
  • cost effective way to provide education and information

4.     Why does a person want to volunteer to speak?

  • prestige
  • recognition by peers
  • get out a message or information to colleagues

5.     Who requires the most attention…

The Professional

  • The Professional can be demanding, but they usually know what they need and want.
  • It is sometimes hard to get them in for a rehearsal but usually they are happy to check the room, the sound, the set up etc because they know their reputation rides on their presentation
  • A professional may respond to a call for participation to satisfy an obligation and enjoy the honour of sharing their expertise and knowledge

The Volunteer

  • The Volunteer, depending on his position with in the organization may require a lot of attention
  • You often have to work with the ego or a self-absorbed member
  • You need to allow the volunteer to capitalize on their own special expertise and best qualities
  • Need help and coaching to get the knowledge they have out in the best format for the audience because they may not have a lot of experience public speaking
  • May be quite unprepared to speak effectively to their peers
  • They are not pros and this is not their regular job.  As such they may be more involved with their work than preparing a presentation
  • They may need constant reminders to provide information that you as the meeting planner require, including of extra explanations of needs and timing for materials and information.
  • On the other hand, volunteers may require less hand holding than professionals
  • They are usually more familiar with the meeting, they know who to contact within the organization to get their questions answered and they know the members and attendees
  • A volunteer speaker can also be professional and come from within the organization ranks
  • Volunteer speakers should be encouraged as they are a valuable resource – now or in the future – in some other capacity

Professional or volunteer, you still need a contract or letter of agreement

  • This prevents unwanted practices such as selling from the stage, running over time, etc
  • It ensures they are aware of your expectations and requirements
  • Provides all the information the speaker requires… date, time, place, length of presentation, remuneration, etc

Speakers contract or agreement should include:

  • date and time of presentation
  • length of presentation
  • fees and expenses and payment of these items
  • subject matter
  • AV requirements
  • Room set up
  • Rehearsal time
  • Handout policies
  • Cancellation
  • Dress Code
  • Product Sales
  • Other requirements such as biography, intro photo etc.

Basic rules for program participant (speaker) communication

  • Affirm
  • Confirm
  • Reaffirm

In Other words...

  • Invite the speaker/panelist
  • Confirm their participation
  • Sent Contract or Letter of Agreement
  • A reminder about 30 days in advance of the event which reaffirms previous information and provides any new details
  • Thank you letter after the event

Handling The Speaker:

On Site - have a committee or staff member to meet the speaker, review requirements and needs, advise who will do introduction ensure you have correct bio., double check AV and handout requirements, and generally make the speaker feel welcome and confident their needs are being met

  • Sometimes special arrangements are made for a meeting with the day’s speakers to review these things
  • Sometimes it is done one on one or maybe a panel with the moderator.
  • Regardless of how it is done, it goes a long way to make the speaker comfortable prior to their presentation

Remember that whether professional or volunteer, your speakers are the key to the program’s success

Treat them all with courtesy and consideration.