It’s Not All About the Presentation! How Speakers Can Support Meeting and Conference Planners Before, During and After Their Event
Every professional speaker wants to do their best to support meeting planners, so that their event will be eagerly anticipated, enjoyed on the day and remembered for months afterwards. But what else can speakers do to help that goes beyond standing on the stage?
As it happens, there’s very much more they can do than simply turn up on the big day.
Even before a meeting planner or speaker bureau contacts a speaker, subject experts can do much to help those who are organising a conference. LinkedIn is a typical place to start and speakers can make it clear on their profile how their expertise can assist meeting planners who may be looking for people like them.
Even a simple statement on your profile will help to show that you’re not just interested in the fee for speaking, but that you genuinely want to help and support the goals of the planner. On my profile, it says something along the lines of:
“As a professional speaker, I work closely with meeting planners, conference organisers and event managers to ensure delegates are educated, entertained and inspired to take action.”
In fact, it goes a lot deeper than that.
I speak on Social Media and how organisations, their leaders and sales teams can build closer relationships with their customers. So I use my knowledge to do everything possible to support conference organisers. In many ways, Social Media is just made for meeting planners! Here's how.
If you are fortunate enough to be booked to speak at an event, speakers can further help by offering to promote the event through their network and Social Media contacts. This could include regular tweets highlighting that you are excited to be speaking at the XYZ event in London and by using the event hashtag. (It’s important to mention the city too, because this will often be picked up in Twitter search results – and that in turn could attract more attendees if they know an event is local to them)
In my experience, event hashtags are surprisingly still not commonplace at conferences, and if there isn’t already one in place I will speak to the conference organisers to explain why it’s a good idea for them to have one. I will often start the ball rolling for them and begin tweeting with the hashtag that I have suggested. Meeting planners quickly catch on and it gives them another opportunity to contact people who are either thinking of attending or who have already signed up.
Never underestimate how valuable tweets from people who have already signed up can be as part of the overall promotion of the event. It makes them feel ‘part’ of the event and they are only too pleased to share that they are attending.
I will also offer to record a short video for the event organisers, again highlighting my excitement at speaking at the conference – and I’ll also include a couple of teaser points that I will be including in my presentation.
It’s important to go the extra mile in this and I’ll always try to include the organiser’s logo somewhere in the video. Often, I will open the video with a professionally animated version of their logo; this usually takes conference organisers by surprise, but my objective in doing this is to do everything possible to help the event be as successful as possible. Organisers can post the video on their website, on their YouTube channel and elsewhere on their Social Media pages.
The next thing I will do is write a blog which I’ll post either on my website, on LinkedIn or somewhere else appropriate. The blog will put the message of my forthcoming speech into context, and I will try to use case studies within the relevant industry.
Again, this gives the conference organisers additional opportunities to contact potential attendees and to add value to those who have already signed up.
For example, I am due to speak at a tourism conference in India later this year, so I will be writing at least two blogs about the use of Social Media for travel and tourism professionals in India before I even get on the plane. I will highlight examples of best practice and also include a few ‘quick wins’. Hopefully the attendees will find this valuable and again, it shows the organisers that I am serious about supporting them.
Where appropriate, something else I will do is to have a cartoon created which is related to the industry in which I am speaking. I will send the cartoon to the organisers in advance of the conference and invite them to offer it to attendees as a caption competition. Depending on the industry this invariably adds an additional dimension to the promotion of the event, and is intended largely as a bit of fun.
At the event itself, I will highlight during my presentation one or two of the best/funniest captions. The objective again is to help the event organisers and to engage my audience.
Something else I will occasionally do, is to run a survey on a site like Survey Monkey, which asks delegates something related to their use of Social Media (i.e. my topic). I might ask delegates what their typical pain points are when they use Social Media or perhaps how they see the use of Social Media impacting their particular industry or profession.
This not only helps me with my research ahead of the event, but again gives the organisers additional promotional opportunities. I will also use some of the key points in the survey as part of my presentation. This is extremely helpful to me as a speaker because it really helps my audience to see that I understand their key issues.
As the event approaches, I will up the pace of tweeting about the event and by then you will tend to find an excited sense of expectation and community building online around the forthcoming event.
On many occasions, I have ‘met’ delegates online prior to the event and it’s great to finally meet them ‘in the flesh’ on the big day. Quite often as a speaker I will be invited to attend pre-conference networking sessions and dinner, and this too provides some great opportunities for Social Media communications.
In the past I have suggested to organisers that they hold a ‘selfie competition’ before and during conferences (utilising the event hashtag of course), and this often generates a good deal of fun and engagement amongst delegates.
On the big day, my focus is on three things:
Reassuring the meeting planner that I’m all set and good to go. I will also make a point of asking the organisers if there is anything else that I can do to help.
Secondly, networking. I will actively seek out people who I’ve met online and at some point or another a selfie is taken for our Twitter and other feeds. But again, I will make sure that the event hashtag is used and I’ll also explain how excited I am about speaking at the event. Nine times out of ten, the event organisers will retweet my post, and this helps us both.
In addition to the delegates and the meeting planning team, my networking also includes several other key people who will be in attendance:
· The Tech team
· The Video team
· CEO, Sales Director or HR Head (as appropriate to the event)
· Other speakers
· Venue staff
There are opportunities for speakers to add to supporting the success of the event by making a point of talking to each of these groups. For example, I always make a point of thanking the tech team before and after my presentation. I will also ask the tech team for their Twitter handle, so that I can mention them in my tweets. A ‘behind the scenes’ photo always goes down well, and again this gives the meeting planner additional material to share.
I have a keen interest in photography too, so there’s always something to talk about with the guys and girls with the long lenses. Some will kindly give me copies of their photos after the event because of this simple interaction.
I will very often ask event organisers if they would like me to talk to their industry journalists at the event, and more often than not we are able to grab twenty minutes at the event. I remember one conference in Portugal a year ago, when I spent a whole afternoon with journalists who were literally queuing up. Again, I am happy to do this because it gives me additional promotion and helps the organisers to get positive exposure afterwards.
The venue team are also extremely important. Hotel or venue staff invariably want to show off their services and setting and are usually only too pleased to have their photo taken for a tweet – again using the event hashtag. I’ve had meeting planners tell me in the past that venues have contacted them to say thank you for mentioning them on Social Media, so this simple act can often help conference organisers to strengthen their relationship with venue owners and managers.
It’s important too for speakers to talk to speakers! Many have large networks of contacts, so group photos posted with the event hashtag always go down well. I will often suggest to conference organisers that we get a group photo for immediate posting online and for use in their post event communications.
Finally, I will always make a point of seeking out the sponsor of the event. That is very often one or all of the CEO, Sales Director or Human Resources Director. If possible, we’ll try and do the selfie thing and if there is time I will interview the person concerned on video about some aspect of the event. What are they looking forward to? What are their objectives for the event? And, can I help them in some way?
That last question has often produced a request for a few last-minute presentation tips ahead of his or her own speech – and that in turn has on more than one occasion resulted in me being invited to run in-house presentation skills training for their senior executives!
As any meeting planner will know, exhibitors can make or break the viability of an event or conference. So again, where there is time I will try and get around to meet as many as possible. Most are on Social Media so it’s another great opportunity to build some buzz around the event online using the conference hashtag, and this is something the meeting planners are usually very grateful for.
Then comes my own speech or presentation, and even during that I can create buzz and community online. I’m not one of those speakers who wants everyone to turn off their phones – the world doesn’t work like that anymore. But with care, I can hopefully engage the audience in the room AND the audience who are ‘watching’ online.
I will occasionally include short phrases in my speech which are deliberately designed to be tweeted. If I am using slides I will include the event hashtag, so again the event should get prominence online as people share sections of my presentation. It helps me and it helps the event organisers.
Something else I have done which makes a point about the use of Social Media and which engages the audience, is to take a photo of the audience on my phone which I explain I will put on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. I’ll then ask everyone to tag themselves and the event later on and once again this can create great engagement as people search for themselves in the picture.
I’ve not yet live video streamed my speech from the stage, though I have seen a couple of speaker friends do this. But clearly, with the support and involvement of the meeting planner, this too could be a great way to support the conference organiser.
And finally, not all conferences make the speaker’s slides or content available to delegates – so I use a system where I will store my materials online. I give the audience a special, tailored link (includes the organiser’s name) during my speech, where they can find the content I presented, some additional exclusive resources and any message or communication that the meeting planner would like me to include.
What I’ve found is that some delegates will visit the link immediately, whilst others will log in gradually over the coming days and weeks. This gives the conference organisers an additional opportunity to engage with the audience after the event, which is over and above what they were already going to communicate.
Finally, there is the post conference blog. This does what it says on the tin and is intended to highlight what a great event it was, how well organised it was – plus a summary of some key learning points from my presentation as they relate to the organisation, company or industry.
In short, I rarely see my responsibilities as merely speaking. Clearly, I hope that I will be booked again through the strength of my content and delivery, but in this day and age it goes much further than that.
I want the meeting planners to see that I am easy to work with, and that I am also eager to get stuck in to supporting the wider success of the event. If I can do that, I also help myself and yet another group of people - the Speaker Bureau. They too want to be hired again, so the simple act of going the extra mile at the event itself helps everyone in the conference chain.
I hope you can see from my points that I am trying to provide that support by creating a sense of theatre, buzz and community around the conference before, during and afterwards so that the event organiser can rest easy feeling that it has been a truly memorable event.
Please book me to speak at your conference or event. Education, entertainment, help, support and proven Social Media insights to excite and motivate your audience. Contact your speaker bureau or me at firstname.lastname@example.org