As a meeting professional you are used to handling the trickiest of negotiations and arrangements. Need a peace conference between the Hatfields and McCoys attended by 4,000 West Virginians, 2,000 of whom have special dietary needs? You can have the venue, seating plans, security, and menus ready by tomorrow, as well as meditation leaders in every breakout room. But there is one aspect of your event that participants may remember long after they have forgotten the fabulous food and energizing yoga sessions you provided, and that’s the keynote speaker.
There are so many variables for this decision. Of course, there are the logistics—is the speaker available and will your budget cover the fee? But before you even get to that point, you have to figure out the kind of speaker your organization needs. Do you want to implement new strategies with the help of a thought leader who will advocate for change? Do you need to inspire your employees after a tough year? Do your members want help adapting to a new business environment? And what format works best for your audience—is their attention span and learning background more suited to TED talks or a traditional keynote?
Ironically, one of the ways to research and audition speakers now almost makes hiring them obsolete; if their YouTube video leaves you exhilarated and inspired then why not send out the link with your registration materials and save yourself the speaker fee and airfare?
As Bob Mitchell, senior director of marketing at Keppler Speakers, says, “It’s more than just placing a warm body behind the podium, it’s about creating an emotional connection.”
To make sure a speaker really resonates in person with your audience, they must customize their presentation for your event, understand your goals, and commit to working with you on your marketing strategies, education efforts, and personal experiences with your attendees.
This month, we profile 18 speakers with a fresh approach to the issues facing your audience in 2017. Are your employees getting lax about cybercrime? A live hacking demonstration can make them get serious about security. Are your managers finding it hard to communicate with younger workers? It’s time to find out what makes Millennials tick. Whether your organization is working toward more diversity, adapting to the digital revolution, or taking steps to promote and protect your data, communications, and brand, your choice of keynote speaker can kickstart your efforts and get your audience on board.
Oh, and our pick for the Hatfield/McCoy conference? Fellow West Virginian, comedian, Family Feud host, and (could be useful!) former boxer: Steve Harvey.