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Getting the Most from Your Motivational Speaker:
Eight Tips for Event Planners

Motivational Speaker
Eight Tips for Event Planners

A top-notch event planner is a talented illusionist, transforming months of planning and stressful heat-of-the-moment decision-making into what seems like a seamless and effortless event. The right motivational speaker is a magician of sorts, too, casting a lasting spell over audience members and making them see the world--and their capacity to change it--with new eyes.

The end result may be magic, but the steps to get there are pretty practical, says Rich Libner, president of MCP Speakers. Having spent more than 20 years arranging appearances of motivational speakers across Canada and the U.S., Libner knows from experience that the key to creating a magical event is careful planning, expert guidance and clear communication.

Looking to make some magic at your next motivational speaker event? Cast your own spell with these eight steps.

  1. Start early
  2. Do your homework
  3. Seek expert advice
  4. Communicate directly with the speaker
  5. Get it in writing
  6. Treat your speaker well
  7. Be prepared
  8. Evaluate the outcomes

1) Start early

The sooner you start your motivational speaker search, the more likely you are to find a speaker who is available and fits your bill, both in terms of quality and price. Ideally, you should start your planning 12 to 18 months before the big day, but successful events can be run with six months of lead time. Depending on the size and structure of your organization, you may need to allocate time to internal approval of your speaker choice--make sure you build this step into your timeline.

2) Do your homework

Before starting your search for a speaker, make sure you lay the groundwork for success. Assemble a knowledgeable team. Establish clear goals for the event. Ensure you have buy-in from the top levels of your organization. Know your budget. And identify the qualities you're looking for in a motivational speaker. MCP Speakers, for example, represents adversity speakers, creativity and innovation speakers, goals and achievement speakers, success speakers, life balance speakers and more. Use a consultative approach that will result in concrete expectations for the event as a whole and the role of your motivational speaker in particular.

3) Seek expert advice

Susan Ershler
Susan Ershler

A speakers bureau is a key partner for event planners, says Libner. "We both want the same outcome--a standing ovation."

Look for a speakers bureau with years of experience and a diverse selection of speakers who specialize in motivating audiences. MCP Speakers, for example, represents two-time Olympian and four-time Paralympian Jeff Adams, who tailors his message about overcoming adversity in sports to audiences ranging from business executives to youth. Libner also represents Susan Ershler, motivational speaker and co-author of Together on Top of the World: The Remarkable Story of the First Couple to Climb the Fabled Seven Summits. Ershler inspires audiences with her success as an executive at Fortune 500 companies and as a mountain climber who trained on her lunch hours by climbing stairs with a 40-pound pack on her back.

A speakers bureau will help you select an appropriate speaker based on your desired outcomes and within your budget. You will have access to speaker bios, reviews and videos of performances, as well as the bureau's direct experience of working with different performers.

No event planner likes surprises. The bureau becomes an important part of your event planning team, providing support once the speaker has been booked--including travel and audio-visual requirements--and even on the day of the event, if a speaker is forced to cancel due to illness or travel delays. According to Libner, a good speakers bureau always has a backup plan.

4) Communicate directly with the speaker

At a certain point, it's a good idea to cut out the middle man. A credible speakers bureau will facilitate your early interactions with your motivational speaker. Tell your speaker about your expectations and goals. What do you want the motivational speaker to contribute? What are the key messages you want emphasized? What do you know of the audience? What else is happening at the event and how does the motivational speaker fit into the plan?

5) Get it in writing

Make sure everyone is literally on the same page--confirm your understandings with the executive team of your organization, the speakers bureau and the speaker in written form. Summarize important points, dates, deadlines and other information. Get confirmation that everyone has seen the document and agrees with its contents. This is where a speakers bureau can help, adds Libner. MCP Speakers, for example, gets all parties to sign a formal contract.

6) Treat your speaker well

A happy speaker is a helpful speaker, so treat your motivational speaker with respect and kindness. No one likes to feel like a hot potato so identify someone from your event planning team early in your process to be your speaker liaison, responsible for communicating with the speaker and greeting her when she arrives.

Keep your speaker in the loop about any changes to the event program or venue. Let her proof her bio and synopsis if you've altered it. Little touches can make a big difference. For example, leave a small gift and all the details about the event in the speaker's hotel room if she will be arriving a day early. Arrange for the speaker's transportation to the venue or provide detailed instructions and a designated place to park. Ask well in advance about the speaker's expectations and requirements for the venue. Is a "green room" required? If so, what amenities are needed? At a minimum there should be refreshments, a mirror and a copy of the event program.

7) Be prepared

Generate a checklist of phone numbers, including your speakers bureau, and circulate it to all members of the event team ahead of time. Ensure you have functioning A/V equipment and a technician. Schedule a dress rehearsal, if possible. Arrive early at the event to troubleshoot any issues that may arise.

8) Evaluate the outcomes

There's always something valuable to learn from an event, so make sure you do some form of post-event evaluation. You can speak informally with key people who were involved, including your motivational speaker, to determine what went well and what could be improved in the future. You can also create a formal speaker evaluation sheet which you collect from the audience following the event. Compile the results of your evaluation in a report so that you or another event planner can access the recommendations in the future. After all, you want to ensure the magic happens next time around, too.


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