Wednesday, February 20, 2013

10 things that event planners do to upset speakers

I hope this is not a career-damaging article. It's not intended to be. It has been compiled following a challenge from two fellow members of MPI (Meeting Professionals International). Since I have a foot in the camps of both professional speakers and professional meeting planners, I hope both groups will forgive me. The idea is to make the relationship more harmonious, honestly.

So here’s my list:

1) No confirmation of the event. A booking has been made months ahead, it’s in pencil in the speaker’s diary, but there is no further communication until a week before the gig.

2) Sudden re-organisation of the agenda. An opening keynote becomes a closing keynote, or a workshop becomes a breakfast seminar. The last person to know may be the speaker.

3) No time for rehearsal. A professional speaker will always want to run a sound check and room check well before their speech.

4) No-fee events, with no obvious benefit to the speaker. There may be promises of “great networking opportunities”, but when the tea and biscuits cost more than a top-quality speaker, something is wrong.

5) Filming the speaker without permission (or a release form which gives away the speaker’s copyright). This should never happen, and should be negotiated in advance.

6) Telling the speaker as they begin “Can you cut your speech by 20 minutes” or “can you keep going until coffee – the next speaker hasn’t arrived”

7) Demanding copies of slides three months in advance. Many speakers don’t use slides. Some event planners don’t understand that

8) No briefing for the speakers, or no contact with the end client. This is all too common, and can lead to a mismatch between speaker and audience. Building a relationship between speaker and client is crucial.

9) No speaker liaison person and no response to enquiries from speakers.

10) Late cancellations and subsequent debates about cancellation fees.

Other than that, everything is fine! Of course, the above happen only rarely – but I hope they never happen to you.

And yes, there'll be a piece shortly on what speakers do to upset event planners. 


Unknown said...

Alan. I am new to speaking, but in entertainment (which I have 29 years in) many of these conditions are all too common. It's funny that the two worlds don't seem to work together sometimes. Maybe they'll both read your blog and have an "aha moment". Lets hope so. :)

Jeremy Nicholas said...

Alan you will never work in this town again! Which is good news for the rest of us, because you are far too good.

William said...

Alan, spot on! As you know I straddle both camps as an organiser and a speaker and all too often we see these errors. I encourage every organiser to speak at an event. You have a wonderfully different position once you've been on the other side!

Adolph Kaestner said...

Alan - well said - There are a few more but you have the top ten nailed - looking forward to the other side of the story as I know we as speakers are also not blameless

Billy Kirsch said...

Alan, a great article, thanks for sharing this. I don't think your list of potential problems is edgy or controversial. In fact, these points should be outlined in every speaker contract to avoid the issues that you describe. Having a clear understanding of mutual expectations and a contract to back it up solves most of these problems before they arise.

Alan Stevens said...

Thanks for the comments, guys. Looks like it may have been a good idea after all....

Janet said...

Joint conversations between event planners and speakers over the years have increased perspective from both sides; seems we have a way to go.

My viewpoint is that many of these situations can be prevented by good communication and clear expectations.

Those that are outside our control are part of the business of speaking. It doesn't matter; let it go. Be prepared to have your program cut or extended or moved or whatever. It happens.

We do what we can to control most of our speaking environment; adaptation to the rest with dignity and humor is what sets us apart as professionals.

J. Terryl said...

Allen, great article, maybe some meeting planner will read it and improve!! Here is my pet peeve with them.....Not giving you a "contact" person...the meeting planner is busy running the meeting and any request you make of them is an interruption but with an assigned contact person, you have a person that "wants" to help you and over the years I have learned to request one, When I explain to the meeting planner why they love the idea.
T. Bubba Bechtol, CSP
32 year member

Andrew Bruce Smith said...

I get lots of approaches to speak at events. And no question that the "no speaker fee" is becoming the normal opening gambit. There are clearly some events where even if you don't get a fee, the prestige of appearing on a platform with "big hitters", etc should hopefully have some downstream benefit.

However, the "no speaker fee" does annoy in other cases. If event organisers are charging people to attend an event (in some cases, a lot of money), the reason people are prepared to pay to attend is to get value from the speakers and their content - and yet the people who are providing the very reason others will turn up and pay are expected to do it for nothing? There would be no event without the speakers.

Best one recently for me was where I had a small conf organiser ring me with an amazing opportunity - they were going to make a special exception for me - they wouldn't charge me for speaking....

What an offer.