A speaker with the right expertise may be the determinant between a memorable event and a mind-numbing session of white noise.

In my 14-year career helping organisations improve though leadership and motivational presentations, I’ve seen the best and the worst speakers on the platform. Here are some tips to help MICE professionals pick the right speaker for a client’s event:

Get absolute clarity about the outcome

Fully understand what the client expects the outcome to be. Get information about the context of the audience, in terms of their spoken and unspoken issues, and their emotional subtext as the meeting date approaches. Understand what the speaker is supposed to achieve. In my case, I often ask what people need to start THINKING, DOING and BELIEVING slightly differently after I leave. What’s the call for action at the conclusion? Remember, you are not filling a one-hour “slot”, you are getting someone to create an impact, create better alignment with the host’s key themes, and most of all, have people thinking and talking about the content that has been spoken of. What’s that worth to a client?

Do the homework

Get one or two iron-clad referrals of a specific speaker for the event or topic. If you can’t, do your research on Google and make an intelligent approach. I can’t count how many times I encounter someone totally unprepared, shopping around Google and asking me if I am available to speak on a particular date and the rate that I charge for it. This is a stupid way to approach what is supposed to be a multi-faceted requirement. It’s like walking into a tailor’s shop and asking how much it is to have a suit made. If you have fulfilled the first point above, you would share this information with the speaker to find out what they propose, and how they price what they plan to deliver meaningfully. Costs can vary, depending on time, preparation or customisation, and expertise delivered. For example, a Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) is a speaker who has earned an audited credential that only 11 per cent of the world’s 6000-odd professional speakers possess. But that is just a baseline – look at who they have worked with, and the quality of their videos to make an informed decision. Some speakers mainly conduct full-day workshops, so how often can they deliver their expertise in a compact one-hour conference? This is a factor as well.

Work with the speaker before the event

Use the speaker’s experience to make the whole conference a better one. A professional speaker may be able to suggest two or three other ways to structure the meeting flow and content at no extra cost. Get the speaker to assist in the lead-up to the event. Ask them to share video clips, white papers or other materials beforehand. Running out of ideas for the goodie bag? Include a book written by the speaker, rather than one more corporate hat/bag/file that most attendees toss away when they get home.