How to Choose (or be) a Great Speaker


I spend a lot of time speaking at corporate conferences and events. In 2019 alone I spoke in San Diego, Mexico, San Francisco (twice), Maui, New Orleans, Colomgia, Seattle, Naples, Miami, and Ft. Lauderdale. And this month I’m heading to Phoenix, Albuquerque, Amelia Island, South Beach, and Tempe.
So it’s no surprise that people are always asking me two questions:

  1. How do I choose a great speaker for my event? Or,
  2. How do I get chosen as a speaker for events?

Believe it or not, the answer is essentially the same: Figure out what matters the most to your audience and provide it.
Or find someone who can.
In today’s mega-connected world, consumers have instantaneous access to whatever amusement they want. Therefore being good on stage is not good enough. Whether you tell jokes, juggle, stand on your head, do magic tricks or paint historically accurate portraits while being hung upside down, you’re just a momentary diversion. Booking an “entertainment speaker” is not a great way to create a meaningful event. And being an “entertainment speaker” is not a great way to get booked.
At the same time, those same meeting professionals and audiences already have access to almost all the information they want and need. Being an “information speaker” and showing up with knowledge – no matter how relevant – is not good enough either. These “information speakers” are the folks who remind you of your most boring college professor – they give you the feeling that whatever the subject they’re talking about, they are just a page ahead of you in the book. No one wants to hire an “information speaker” and fewer people want to listen to them. You shouldn’t want to be hire one (or be one) either.
What meeting professionals want, and what the best speakers provide, is a seamless combination of both insight, information AND entertainment. Just like the spoonful of sugar that helps the medicine go down, having your audiences laughing while they’re learning is the best way to make sure that they appreciate both the speaker and the meeting professional who booked that speaker.
Once you’ve accomplished that, the next thing to do is to make sure that you – or the speaker you hire – transforms their audience. If the people in the seats leave the room feeling they have somehow been changed – by what they saw, what they heard, what they learned or what they felt – you can rest assured that they will appreciate and remember your hard work. And that they will ask you back to work for them again.
These practices are simple but not simplistic. Easy to say but not easy to do. If you simultaneously entertain and enlighten your audience while you transform their thinking, you have figured out exactly how to successfully choose a speaker AND exactly how to be a successful speaker.

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