How to choose speakers for a corporate event

How to choose speakers for a corporate event

Searching for speakers is never an easy task. But in case of corporate events, it’s quite a common one. So, this time, we’re interviewing Alejandro García, our Senior Executive, about how to choose speakers for a corporate event, to give you some tips and practical advice.

Hello, Alejandro. To begin with, our traditional question. How did you start working in the event industry?

Well, my case is a bit peculiar. I first studied Computer Engineering and even worked as a programmer for a while. And already back then, I started freelancing in event production from time to time. And as I wasn’t very happy with the studies I had chosen, I decided to make a change. So, I started Business Management career, and since 2011 I have been working in event production agencies full time.

So, we wanted to talk to you about this topic, as you spend a lot of time searching for speakers. And you know better than anyone, that most of the time the clients don’t know what they want. So, how do you start?

To begin with, you have to take several things into account: the format, the goals, and the type of audience. First, the format. Is it a professional meeting, a congress, a convention...? Or is it something more recreational, an internal event, a celebration...?

Then, you have to do whatever it takes to get the client to explain their goals. In other words, what content they want to offer to the audience and what effect they want to achieve. Because both the figure of the speaker and the content are brand building tools, and you have to be careful with them. For example, do they want the speaker to talk about the main theme of the event, but from a different perspective? Or the complete opposite? Even though, let's say, it's a pharmaceutical event, they want a professional athlete to talk about overcoming challenges. So that it has nothing to do with the main theme.

And finally, it's essential to know what type of audience you're addressing. International or local, young or not that young, internal or external, more male or female (which sometimes can be important, too). Having these points clear helps a lot to kickstart the search.

Alejandro García, Senior Executive at 4foreverything

And when it comes to searching, the first ones you come across, obviously, are those who work on their personal brand. To what extent is self-promotion reliable?

It's a good starting point, obviously. You can get to know people through their websites and social media. Their tone, the content they offer, whether they are dynamic or not. However, personal interaction is what matters most. After the first call, you already understand if it's someone reliable who won't let you down, if you ask for an extra effort. Or, on the contrary, someone who won’t make it easy for you. That becomes evident right away. But yeah, social media are a must nowadays. YouTube, LinkedIn, Instagram can be very helpful tools. Moreover, often, the client wants the speaker to be active on these platforms, and use them to spread information about the event.

However, you need to be careful. For example, should you read comments? Yes. Can you trust them 100%? No. You know well, because it happened to us, how much the flattering reactions from the followers on social media can differ from the feelings you have when working with this person.

However, not everyone is on social media. What other options are there for searching? Word of mouth, your own experience, agencies...

Having previous experience might give some more idea on how to choose speakers for a corporate event. You may be familiar with a number of candidates and have your own opinion. However, there are thousands of people on the market. That's why it's inevitable to turn to specialized agencies. The advantage is that they can find people with very specific qualities. For example, a female founder of a start-up who speaks about AI, but also does it in French... The problem is that, in the end, their objective is to earn a commission. So, you can't trust their recommendations blindly.

Another source, and much more reliable in my opinion, are your colleagues from the industry. You can trust them. If they recommend someone, it's because they are worth it. But, of course, the pool of candidates in this case is more limited.

And you know what? I would say that if you can attend a presentation by a potential candidate, do it. Because you will then base your decision on your own impressions.

Now, the money. Always a very delicate topic. Can the fee be negotiated?

Of course, it can. The thing is that top speakers often have their fees totally fixed. So, I would recommend to consider, whether it's worth pushing to reduce those 300-500 euros, knowing that the production process is full of unforeseen circumstances. The CEO doesn't show up during the rehearsal, and the speaker has to rearrange their schedule. You might request them to adapt the content of their presentation to your needs. Last-minute script changes can occur... For all of these situations, you need to have the speaker on your side. That's why, personally, I prefer not to negotiate too much on firmly established fees to have the person more flexible.

Are there cases when it's easier to negotiate? Of course. When you have several candidates, or in the case of a tour or a road show. There, you can ask for a reduction.

And to conclude, something that has nothing to do with how to choose speakers for a corporate event, but with the situations related with them. Any funny story you could tell us?

Got plenty of them. Well, the typical one is the presenter spilling coffee during the break. But that's frequent. Or for example, once I had an actor as a speaker, who refused to come with the driver we provided, saying he would use one of those bikes from the city's bike-sharing instead. He ended up being late because he wasn’t able to return the bike, and the minutes kept adding up, costing him more money...

But one very funny story I have is, just imagine, an event for a major football club. A thousand people on the field. First, there was the institutional speech, and then a famous singer was to perform his cover of the club's anthem. The singer didn't know the lyrics, so we had to stick them to the lectern.

The club representative who was going to deliver the institutional speech told us he would go up with some papers, and after the speech, he wouldn't pick them up. In other words, a hostess should come up and take them away. But, in the end, he did take the papers, and the hostess who came up next, following our instructions, started tearing off the lyrics that were stuck to the lectern into pieces. We were all literally on the brink of a breakdown, telling her to go up and place the pieces of paper back... We never knew what kind of magic she worked, how she managed to compose the torn pieces, or if anything was readable there or not, but the singer nailed it.

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