You’ve just been elected Chair of the Organising Committee and you are indeed honoured.
Before your behind can connect with the Chair, you’re saddle with your first event to organize! But boy, you’re gonna show them!
You chose a “hot and popping” guest speaker who is not well known but one that you know can rip the room apart. You’ve commissioned a florist and the colour of the table cloth has to be just right. But …hold on, have you given any thought about how to get the best out of your guest speaker? Yes! You heard me correctly.
You see, very often, the guest speaker is not closely associated with the organizers or the event. He or she is usually expected to enhance the event by sharing a their unique perspective on the topic which is important to the organisation or the occasion.
Because of this, your guest speaker will certainly be working hard to deliver a world class speech. She or he will invest some brain matter in deciding on the “perfect” outfit and depending on the gender, the process could include getting hair and nails done, thirteen revisions of the speech and washing the car. All to make you look good.
So given the above, you Chairperson, have an unwritten and often unrecognised responsibility to ensure that your guest speaker is comfortable and in the frame of mind to deliver the best speech ever. Oh Yes! How do you do that? Take it from a guest speaker who knows…here are 8 surprising ways that will help you to be the Chairperson that no guest speaker can refuse.
1. Make a point of providing contact details
When organisers first call to invite persons to speak, they tend to focus on the specifics of the occasion and the requirements of the speech. But very often, the person who makes the initial contact is not the person whom the guest speaker should call if she needs any further information. Having this information upfront would help.
2. Let the Guest Speaker know why you chose them
No…I don’t wan’t you to say “Richard Branson was soooo unavailable so we had to make do with you!” What I had in mind was “We wanted a unique perspective on the right side from which to mount a horse and the Stable Boy recommended you as a great rider who would make a and an even better guest speaker!”
In this way, the speaker is in a position to prepare an awesome speech that connects the topic to the occasion, hooks it on to the reason you invited him and really bring it home on the needs of the audience. This takes his performance through the roof and cements your reputation as the consummate organizer of high-class occasions.
3. Prepare a packet of information about your organisation for the guest speaker
This should be a no-brainer and should not even be worth the discussion. But many times this packet does not exist, especially if the organisation is fairly young. And if as a guest speaker you dare to ask for it, you could run the risk of experiencing how a promise is a comfort for a fool.
4. Tell the guest speaker who else will be speaking on the programme
You think this is not important? Wait until you have to speak after a government minister seeking re-election and a minister of religion seeking to impress God!
Knowing who else will be speaking on the programme and having some indication of what areas they are covering allow guests speakers to deliver a speech that’s fresh and relevant. It also allows them to be flexible when the above-mentioned two deliver marathon presentations to a “captured” audience.
5. Keep corsages and boutonnières small
Fuh real! Speakers hate it when you pin vases of flowers (or so it seems to me!) on them. It’s even worse for women when they are not securely fastened.
We understand and appreciate your intention, but trying to deliver an unforgettable presentation with these flowers precariously perched on our chests is an award-winning feat in itself. Here’s my answer: I usually ask for a boutonnière - which immediately raises eyebrows and questions about my secret desire to be a man.
6. Learn how to introduce a guest speaker properly
Calling the speaker’s name and reciting a list of accomplishments is not enough. Mentioning that she likes to sleep naked facing the east might be too much. And it actually make speakers nervous when you introduce them in such glowing terms that they feel they cannot fulfil the audience’s expectations.
Moreover, this is not the time to share personal stories if the introducer knows the speaker. So what should you do? Recognize that the introduction is a public speaking occasion in itself that answers questions such as: Why this speaker? Why this audience? Why this topic? Why this time? Oh! And it has an introduction and a conclusion too!
7. Remain on the platform after you introduce the guest speaker
You see it all the time. A speaker is introduced, there is welcoming applause and the introducer walks away leaving him to walk on to an empty platform. Not only are you demonstrating your lack of platform etiquette, you are also failing to extend a final pre-speech warm and reassuring gesture to the guest speaker. Remaining on the platform and offering a handshake or hug to the speaker sends the message that you wish them well and goes a long way to reducing nervousness.
8. Learn how to thank them properly
Calling the speaker’s name and saying “thank you” in the vote of thanks is not enough. Thanking her parents for having the sex that led to her birth and her husband for giving her permission to deliver the speech is too much.
What do you do? Recognize that the Vote of Thanks is a public speaking occasion in itself. A good approach is to ensure that the person giving the vote of thanks listens to the speech and mentions something significant that the speaker said. No summarizing the speech or giving your point of view at this time.
Wrapping it all up…
There you have them! 8 surprising ways to get the best out of your guest speaker!
As Chairperson of the Organising Committee you want to build a reputation that guarantees you have speakers lined-up waiting to speak at your events. So since word gets around, let the word be that you know how to treat guest speakers.
Now here’s a quick summary of the things you can do to make speakers want to speak at your events.
- Make a point of providing contact details
- Let the guest speaker know why you chose them
- Prepare a packet of info about your organisation for the guest speaker
- Tell the guest who else is speaking on the programme
- Keep corsages and boutonnières small
- Learn how to introduce a guest speaker properly
- Remain on the platform after you introduce the guest speaker
- Learn how to thank them properly
- Know that you are really excelling as an organizer
To your organising success…
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