Africa Travel Week

10 secrets to make the most of professional speakers

Lucy Bloom shares her top ten secrets to getting maximum value from your speaker line up.

Professional speakers can represent a huge chunk of your conference and events budget. They’re your draw cards, your entertainment vehicles and can also be your amplification devices before, during and after your conference.

I’ve been a professional speaker for fifteen years and if you follow these tips, you’ll get the most out of your investment and have professional speakers eating out of your hand.

1. Use an online booking document so that all details are up to date and in one place. This sounds simple, but the only times I have had near misses with messed up details have been when I have been briefed across a series of emails, over a series of months from a series of people. This is the live Google Docs template I give my clients which you can copy and use forever more. You’re welcome.

2. Speakers often have a significant sphere of influence. Your contract should include a requirement by your speakers to post on various social media platforms several times during your event sales period (if appropriate) and have your speakers film a selfie promo video for their speech. Furnish your speakers with the social media assets they need to amplify your event to their audiences globally. Reminders to do this are always welcome too.

3. Create an “Oprah moment” with speakers who are published authors. Buy their latest title at wholesale price for all your delegates and have your speaker announce “You get a book! You get a book! You all get books!” while your staff come out with piles of books for your audience. This is better than any conference goody bag. Audiences love it and speakers will love you for it too.

4. Write a snappy introduction for your speaker. Don’t introduce them by reading the blurb in the programme or the first paragraph of their wiki page. Your audience has already read the program. Tell them something they don’t know and get the crowd excited to hear your professional speaker talent.

5. Assign your top keynote speakers in the slot right before a break in the schedule so that your delegates can meet them in the break. If you place your biggest talent at the start of a run of speeches, they will most likely be heading for the exits before break time.

6. Only offer water or juice backstage – less experienced speakers may not know that they should skip all fizzy drinks as they can make you burp. True story! This happened to me at a gig in Australia. I was standing backstage in the dark, while another speaker was on stage and someone put a bottle of Coke in my hand. I never drink Coke, but I drank it because it was in my hand and then I spent my whole speech on burp patrol.

7. Giving a gift to your speaker on stage while the audience applauds is a fabulous gesture. Skip cut flowers – we can’t take them on planes. Most speakers only travel with hand luggage so we probably can’t fly with a bottle of wine either. The best gift I have ever received was a book bundle of each title by the other author/speakers and they received a bundle which included my latest book.

8. The best time to catch a speaker for a video piece is right after they walk off stage. We are full of endorphins and if we have made your audience laugh, we’re also buzzing with dopamine. It’s why we speak. Catch your speaker as they come off stage to shoot a 30 second video summary of their speech. These videos are perfect for social media and to create FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) with all those who didn’t attend your event.

9. Don’t waste valuable speaker talent on discussion panels. Panels are often used to create a platform for diverse perspectives. But if this is the only way you are using that talent, their expertise, which is in taking an audience on a memorable journey, is lost. Use professional speakers for what they are best at: educating, entertaining and motivating in a speech format.

10. Have fun. What’s the point otherwise? Create magical events and your speakers will enjoy dealing with you and will give their best performance for you. Your audiences will have fun too and will remember your events.

Lucy Bloom

Lucy Bloom ran a successful boutique ad agency for 20 years before taking on the start-up challenge as founding CEO of a brand-new women’s health charity. In less than three years at the helm, Lucy built the policy, procedure, team and strategy which raised $7M for a network of hospitals and a midwifery school in Ethiopia. Lucy then moved on to lead a Cambodian children’s charity as the organisation’s first CEO. She transformed it from an administration function to a fundraising machine with proper policy, procedure, budgeting and strategy, raising more in 12 months than the charity had raised in any year before. Her next challenge was as Executive Director of Inspiring Rare Birds, supporting female entrepreneurs to scale their businesses. In this role Lucy Bloom created the world’s first women-only, all-inclusive speaker’s agency. She helped offer a commercial solution to the gender imbalance on stages all over the world. Lucy has an impressive track record in communicating tricky subjects for mass appeal, strategic financial management, governance and policy. She is also an expert in building and developing high-performance teams.