For keynotes, training sessions, and more, ask what your audience needs and find a match that will deliver on the goals of the overall event.
By Sue Wigston
MARCH 25, 2019
For many people, hiring an event speaker for corporate events seems like a no-brainer. They are typically a low-risk option because you know what you are going to get. Professional speakers are prepared, have experience presenting in front of large groups, and usually align quite well with the business needs of the event—but be wary of making these assumptions. Before you sign on the dotted line for your next event speaker, take these four things into consideration to make sure you are choosing the best candidate for your attendees and your stakeholders.
- Clearly define goals and select content accordingly.
The first step in making the best choice for the event agenda is to align with your stakeholders, as well as your sales team, on the event goals. The only way to know you are making the right choice is to know what their expectations are from the get-go. For example, when planning an annual sales meeting, you will want to get a variety of the stakeholders’ input and expectations. Also, be sure to include your sales and marketing team. Ask them their opinion on what they expect attendees to walk away with and why the time spent away from making sales will be beneficial in the long run. By establishing specific goals up front, it will allow you to easily determine whether the event you are planning will be a good fit for the speaking candidates under consideration.
From there, you can move forward and select the right content. Using the example of the annual sales meeting, remember that your attendees are individuals who would much rather be out making sales than sitting in an event that isn’t worth losing time in front of clients. With this in mind, you want to use the input you have received from your stakeholders about the goals of the event to make the event worthwhile in the eyes of the attendees and leave them feeling educated and like it was a good use of their time.
Once the goals are set and the content has been developed, build a checklist of what to look for in a speaker based on that information. Your event speaker must be able to deliver content that will satisfy the goals of the stakeholders and the expectations of your attendees.
- Think like an attendee.
After years of corporate events that have left attendees with varying levels of satisfaction, it is more than likely that their expectations are mixed. This is your chance to make a positive impression. Because your attendees are taking time out of their already packed schedules, they want (and need) your event to be worth the precious time spent away from the office. When you’re choosing an event speaker, take the time to put yourself in the shoes of your attendees and consider their agendas, as well as your speaker’s ability to deliver, from the attendees’ point of view.
For instance, if you are planning an event for an audience of young, eager millennial and Gen Z attendees, ask yourself if the event speaker you have selected will actually be able to engage them. Because this is a generation of digital natives, they are used to interactive and engaging experiences, which makes gamified, highly participatory sessions the best option. Speakers who lead these types of sessions excel when they encourage the attendees to participate in the process digitally, rather than just speaking at them. The only way to truly set your event up for success is to take your audience’s needs, interests, and characteristics into account in order to select the most appropriate activity and speaker.
- Weigh the cost against the value.
In order to know you are making the best selection possible, consider the short-term and long-term benefits. Is this speech engaging enough for your attendees to want to hang onto every word and carry it with them long after the event ends? Conducting a cost-benefit analysis that takes into consideration the goals of the event and the possible return on investment may lead you in a direction you never expected.
One option, selecting internal senior leaders as event speakers, incurs little to no cost in your event budget. Although this is great for face time with the attendees, if the content does not resonate, the benefits of saving money will not outweigh the cost of unengaged attendees who walk away with no new knowledge. Ultimately, you may have to break away from the known and from your comfort zone, and spending the extra money to hire an outside speaker.
- Consider how a speaker interacts with the rest of the event.
Finding the right mix of speakers, trainings, presentations, and other offerings is critical for a successful corporate event. You want a speaker that makes sense in the greater context of your event and who will enhance the event as a whole. Perhaps your event has highly interactive, hands-on elements and a theme woven throughout. In this case, consider how a lecture-style speaker would interact with them. If your event uses mobile apps with real-time surveys, feedback feeds, and gamified elements, you will want to make sure your speaker is willing and able to incorporate them into their presentation. Your goal should be to ensure your attendees do not feel a disconnect from what they have previously experienced throughout the event.
For every agenda item you consider—especially a speaker who can have such a large impact—ask yourself if it effectively supports the stated goals of the event. Make agenda decisions based on the type of event, the attendee demographics, and the set budget and goals. This will ensure that whatever or whomever you select provides the best return on investment and produces a successful event for everyone.
Attendees never know what to expect at this sensory-filled conference.
By Ian Zelaya — January, 2019,
MONTREAL — At the seventh edition of the international business conference C2 Montréal, which was created by Sid Lee in collaboration with founding partner Cirque du Soleil, attendees got a sense of the theme of “Transformative Collisions” as soon as they walked into the venue: They were thrown off balance by a rotating platform. That unexpected entrance was just the start of the event, held at Arsenal art gallery and warehouse in May.
From its diverse speaker roster—which included former Army intelligence analyst and whistleblower Chelsea Manning, rapper and weed entrepreneur Snoop Dogg, and oceanographer Dr. Sylvia Earle—to unusual environments to network and one-of-a-kind experiences aimed to facilitate meaningful conversations, the conference offered participants a number of ways to collide.
Julia Cyboran, vice president of marketing and communications for C2 Montréal, said the theme came from the spirit of wanting to connect with conference participants, who numbered more than 7,000 from 61 countries in 34 different industries, the conference’s largest attendance to date. More than 73,500 connections were made through the conference’s Klik event scheduling and networking platform and wearable smart badge, she said.
“Every year we start with a blank canvas.”
One trademark of the conference, meetings in unusual environments, is a huge draw for conference attendees. The interactive stations, known as Labs, provided attendees with hands-on teambuilding, networking, and tech-fueled experiences designed to take them out of their comfort zone.
“Every year we start with a blank canvas. The Arsenal is absolutely empty,” said Genifere Legrand, C2 Montréal’s chief creative officer, who oversaw the production of the Labs. “We build all these environments to make sure the people can easily connect and experience the content. We’re constantly redefining the work that we do.”
Labs included a colorful augmented-reality experience designed to stimulate the five senses, a kitchen where groups were invited to create their own cookies and market them to attendees, a mirrored room where attendees discussed diversity and bias in the workplace, and yurts where guests could undergo hypnosis and see their brain patterns through the use of neurotechnology.
Cyboran said that the testament to C2 Montréal’s effort to constantly redefine itself—through its interactive experiences and art installations, presentations, workshops, and overall design—is that more people attended the conference than ever before.
“It’s as if we lit the flame and people are adhering to the work we are doing, and our mission of trying to propel the economy and society forward by having people connect,” said Cyboran. “The analog experience that’s created at C2, where people physically sit down in front of each other and have a conversation, is so valuable in today’s world. We’re trying to push that further every time.”
By Claire Hoffman – BizBash
Adobe’s Matt May, new head of inclusive design, shares how events like Adobe Max can become more accessible to all guests, no matter their backgrounds or physical limitations.
- Ask every attendee exactly what they need. The Adobe Max website had a clear F.A.Q. section that detailed the steps the conference was taking towards inclusivity and accessibility. Attendees also had a chance to discuss any additional requirements while registering.
“Asking that question and expressing your willingness to accommodate is so important,” explains May. “You are inviting people to say, ‘Listen, this is what I want and need.’ The more detailed you can be in the registration process, the better the outcomes are going to be for everybody that’s involved.”
Anyone who marked down a special requirement received a personal phone call from the Adobe team, who then worked with the attendee to provide what was needed: everything from a personal sign language interpreter to a mobility device to a service animal to special transportation to additional events, some of which were up to two miles away.
“Expressing your willingness to accommodate is so important. You are inviting people to say, ‘Listen, this is what I want and need.’”
- Remember that not everyone needs the same thing or learns the same way. One of the main steps taken at Adobe Max this year was to add live captioning to all keynotes and breakout sessions. Captioners worked both remotely and in the room to provide live transcription that was displayed on large screens. In all, almost 500 hours of captions were captured and displayed throughout the conference.
But captions aren’t always ideal for all guests, says May. “If American Sign Language is your native language, words on a screen are not what you will tend to prefer,” he explains. So, guests who requested it were still provided with personal sign language interpreters.
May says that the captioning was not intended to be a cost-saving measure—it was more about providing options to attendees. Some guests, especially those for whom English is a second language, might prefer captions so they can follow along.
“If you’re conversive but not fluent in English, captions are tremendously useful because if you missed something, you can get it brought back to you in a second or two,” he notes. “I’ve used this at conferences that were in French or Spanish—I can get by a little, but when the words are right on the screen, I can follow along.”
- Work with the venue and presenters before the event begins. May says that event planners and venues generally understand the requirements around wheelchair access and ingress and egress, he just wants to add new layers on top of that and think about what else can be done in the future.
Part of that is working with speakers on their presentations and visual assets, and establishing a style guide for things like proper font sizes and color contrasts. He notes that there are a lot of variables for presentations—you don’t know how bright the room’s projector will be, for example. That can greatly affect the legibility of your visual assets.
“Occasionally I’ll be at an event and see a person that didn’t take that into account,” he says. “If their slides are unreadable to me, and my vision is corrected to 20/20, how much worse would it be if somebody has low vision and is sitting in the back? Those are definitely things that we try to bring up with the presenters and the conference staff to make sure that we’re making things as useful as possible.”
May also reminds presenters to explain what’s on their screens, rather than using language like, “As you can see on this chart.” If someone can’t see the screen the presenter is gesturing to they’re being left behind.
- Inclusivity is not just about accommodating physical disabilities. May’s job is also about creating welcoming spaces for people of all races, genders, sexualities, and economic statuses. A big part of that is establishing a code of conduct; Adobe Max displays it prominently on the registration website.
“How do you ensure that attendees are not going to be harassed or assaulted?” he asks. “That is a really important aspect of inclusion, especially with the code of conduct debate that’s going on. People need to feel safe in spaces that we make for them.”
The event also had gender-neutral restrooms and private rooms for breastfeeding. May also cites a recent event he went to that handed out buttons that listed attendees’ preferred gender. “Buttons are cheap. They’re easy,” he says. “So much of this is stuff we can do for free if we just think about it beforehand.”
- Work with your team to make these discussions commonplace. May hopes that in the future, the event industry can establish some clear standards for inclusivity.
“Across the industry, there should be some concept of, ‘This is what we expect a venue to deliver to us, these are the responsibilities that organizers are taking on to make sure these things are accounted for,’” he suggests. “That way, we don’t end up having to start the playbook from scratch every time that we work with a new venue or on a new event.”
- Keep an eye on how emerging technology can help. Working at Adobe, May gets a first-hand look at how technology can improve these issues in the future.
“We’re reaching the point where technology is almost, but not quite, there for things like captioning—we still need to have humans to do the captioning work,” he says, noting that while automatic machine captioning isn’t quite ready for primetime, he thinks it will be widespread within a matter of years. “[At Adobe,] we’re always thinking about what new technologies are coming along that will help us build a more inclusive space.”
May also hopes that in the future, captions will be automatically translated into an attendee’s preferred language.
“From where I sit, I’m always looking at what we can do technically and what we can do socially to make sure everybody walks away happy,” he says.
How to keep the collaboration and communication going long after the event ends.
By Mitra Sorrells – BizBash
Teambuilding activities such as retreats, community service projects, competitive games, and problem-solving challenges can be great tools for companies to strengthen employee relationships, improve communication, break down barriers, re-energize staff, and ultimately improve the work climate and positively impact the bottom line. But those outcomes don’t just happen—they require advanced planning and follow-up. We surveyed teambuilding professionals for ideas on how to create long-term value from a teambuilding activity:
- Create a long-term plan. Don’t view a teambuilding activity as a one-time event. Teams that like each other and get together on a regular basis are more excited about working, because they like the people they work with. Do teambuilding on a continuous basis so people know you are committed to it and are committed to them getting to know each other as people, especially in this day and age when we all sit in cubicles and exchange emails and do virtual conferences.
- Involve employees as facilitators during the event so they can be the point of contact for continued conversations.
- Capture the event with photos and videos. Pictures and videos are the memories of participants bonding together. Relationships are everything at the office.
- Schedule a meeting immediately after the event for participants to debrief with one another. Use internal facilitators to lead a discussion driven by questions such as: What was the most interesting or surprising part of this activity? How was the level of cooperation? How will what we learned affect our performance? Are there suggestions for improvement for our next teambuilding activity?
- Share lessons learned through employee communication channels such as e-newsletters, internal message boards, or bulletin boards. Think of the organization as a community, communities have stories. And stories are the things that weave the social fabric of the organization.
- Show that teamwork is important in a variety of ways. Prioritize teamwork at group meetings and individual performance appraisals. That shows that building a team is a year-long priority.
- If your teambuilding activity involved competition among groups of employees, consider maintaining those teams throughout the year and encouraging that competition. People like to win and keeping teams together creates friendly rivalry that’s a lot of fun.
- Not accounting for internal staff costs
Most firms deploying internal staff to event management duties rarely account for their cost in the event’s budget. Employee time, benefits and overhead are easily measured tangible costs but inefficiency, dereliction of primary duties, employee stress and turnover, although extremely costly, are difficult to assess.
Agency Option: Agencies deliver 100% dedication with no benefits or overhead. They are often the most efficient solution for rapid execution and shielding corporations from hidden costs.
- Forgo access to preferential pricing
Internal staffers often do not have access to exclusive agency preferential pricing available through global vendor networks. This can significantly inflate the cost of your event.
Agency Option: Global vendors seek out high volume agency business which they exchange for preferential pricing that can be passed on to you, the client.
- Underestimating attention to details
Specialty meal, tardy transfer, wrong bed type…In an era of social media these seemingly minor details can translate into negative sentiment and significant costs which are easily avoidable.
Agency Option: Professional event planners, through years of experience, have identified high impact irritants and flawlessly shield clients from them.
- Poorly negotiated contracts
Complex vendor contracts that are improperly reviewed carry avoidable hidden costs: Premiums, penalties, as well as opportunity costs of forfeited benefits and concessions.
Agency Option: Event Managers negotiate vendor contracts on a daily basis. They can effectively navigate industry clauses that will yield maximum benefits for clients.
- Inflated legal costs
Internal staffers may have difficulty reviewing complex vendor contracts so they often enroll the assistance of lawyers whose costs are seldom factored into an event’s budget. Ironically, lawyers often fail to secure concessions and benefits since their main focus is to protect the company from adverse circumstances related to a corporate event.
Agency Option: Event Managers routinely negotiate vendor contracts and all that is ultimately required from a lawyer is a brief overview which saves clients significant legal costs.
- Creativity Gaps
Creating new and interesting events is challenging and the cost of frequently repeating the “same-old” event will translate into lower attendance and reduced engagement.
Agency Option: Agencies invest extensively in research that enables them to provide clients with original and innovative ideas for multiple events.
- Brand blemishes
Event marketing’s objective is to promote your brand which can also be adversely affected during poorly executed events. In addition guests are often reluctant to express negative comments to their hosts which only compounds this costly issue.
Agency Option: Agencies mitigate risks of poorly executed events and their third party status often puts them in a better position to collect objective feedback from guests.
- Budget overruns
Internal staffers do not have a financial stake in events they manage and can often omit critical budget components causing expensive cost overruns.
Agency Option: Agencies present clients with set budgets. Omitted budget items are absorbed by the agency due to its fiscal responsibility to the client.
- Lack of Marketing focus
Internal staffers often focus on easily measured event logistics thereby devoting less time to more important event marketing items like attendance, pipeline, surveys and relationships.
Agency Option: Agencies can assist internal staffers thereby relieving them from stressful, labor intensive event logistics and enabling them to focus on important marketing aspects of events.
- Poor ROI measurement
The dynamic nature of event marketing makes for challenging ROI measurement which must be assessed over the long-term. ROI measurement is event marketing’s most significant hidden cost.
Agency Option: Agencies can manage the logistics of your entire calendar of events freeing internal staffers to dedicate themselves to long-term event marketing ROI measurement.