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Secrets to choosing a conference speaker

  • Jez Rose
  • 22 April 2021

As one of the most established speakers in the UK, you would think I would get used to trends and expectations, in what we commonly call, the corporate speaking market. Up until the social economic crash of 2008 it was a vibrant scene and was the norm to be booked as speaker for almost every one of a client’s conferences. The brief might have been to be motivational, inspirational, simply someone from TV, or to talk about my books but sometimes very little thought went into the selection process. Client’s expectations were often not very high and budgets were rarely a problem.

Trends today seem to stem from TV programmes. Sometimes it only takes for an appearance on TV and the enquiries start to come in. This was especially evident in 2012 during the Olympics when all of my clients wanted an Olympian. Demand for them was excellent in 2011/12 and at almost every conference or event I spoke at, there was someone stood in a tracksuit with a huge medal, however, it peaked in 2013 and today it is back to pretty much what it was before the rise in 2012.

As an individual’s TV appearances become more regular, it has an effect on the corporate market and its hunger for the named celebrity. Of course this celebrity demand does inevitably drive up fees. However, you don’t need a celebrity to get a result.

More than just a name

What if you could spend your £5,000 on a complete unknown speaker and at the end of it, you see a positive change in your employees and everyone raving about the presentation. What if, weeks after the event, everyone is still mentioning the speaker’s name and the company has seen a rise in sales of 10%. It can and does happen and it didn’t need someone from TV to do it.

Speakers who can refresh their content and their delivery, in order to cater for the changing markets and new emerging businesses out there – it is my responsibility, I believe, as a speaker, to surpass a client’s expectations, thereby offering them a greater return on their investment and this is exactly why I’m asked back so often.

Changes in markets and technology have seen a number of corporate clients being much more selective about who they have speaking at their event. Expectations are now much higher and budgets are leaner. A good story teller is not always what’s required and I still find it fascinating when a client tells me that they had a great speaker at last year’s conference but they can’t remember their name. Maybe that’s why the business celebrity or the Olympic athlete is an easy choice. It doesn’t necessarily mean he or she will be the best speaker but you will almost certainly remember if you had Sir Richard Branson or Sir Chris Hoy speaking at your conference. My clients are often looking for lasting and positive change when hiring an external speaker and I have to listen and guide clients more than ever before. Sometimes I’m not the best person to fulfil their brief and I’m always honest about that. After 14 years speaking and hosting at conferences literally all over the world, I’ve got to know my capabilities and strong points and I believe that it’s important I see those same things with my clients, ensuring the best possible result every time.

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