Speaking to perfection

Once you have found a suitable venue for your training event, you need to
make sure you get your message across. Stephanie Sparrow and Brendan Barns look
at how to find the right speaker

Kicking off a training or motivation event with a celebrity speaker is
certainly one way to get a buzz going around the room.

But such glamour and excitement does not come cheap – Carol Vorderman, the
woman most British men allegedly want to have breakfast with, can command
(according to The Observer) £18,000 for a speaking appearance, and up until
last year, when John Major was less reticent about currying publicity, the
former prime minister was gathering fees of £25,000 to illuminate delegates on
international affairs.

A celebrity may not be what you need. Of course, nobody wants the cheap and
cheerful option, as illustrated in a recent episode of TV’s The Office, when
David Brent (pictured above) was a paid £300 to run a classically disastrous
session on motivation, but taking the podium is no longer simply the jurisdiction
of politicians and celebrities – in tough times, business people want to turn
to their business peers for inspiration and ideas. Your event may be just as
successful, and less expensive, if your CEO takes to the stage.

Some speakers are quick at getting under an organisation’s skin and can
deliver a presentation in keeping with its culture. However, do not leave them
to their own devices when it comes to research. You need to do your homework on
your would-be speaker – meet them before the event, brief them fully on what
you require from their presentation, and also on your company, in particular
any issues it is currently facing. You should be suspicious of any guest
speaker who balks at a pre-engagement meeting to exchange information.

Word-of-mouth recommendations for a speaker are invaluable. Speakers or
agents should be happy to put you in touch with previous clients.

And as a final check before you make that booking, consider if the venue is
suitable for what you want to achieve. It is not worth spending £5,000 on a
guest speaker if delegates can’t see them or hear a word of what they are
saying.

What makes a good speaker?

1. Humour – This is the best way to strike an immediate chord
with delegates. Opening words are often the most important so break the ice
with a joke that will make the audience laugh and relax.

2. Passion – Perhaps the most important ingredient for an
excellent speech. If the speaker is not passionate about his topic then how
will he manage to inspire the audience? The speaker has to radiate an
infectious passion to hold the delegates’ attention.

3. Homework – It is essential that the speaker is an expert on
his subject, this will guarantee self-confidence and ensure the audience will
listen and learn. Thorough research will also prevent the speaker being caught
out by any questions.

4. Confidence – Self-confidence on the stage will go a long way
to improving a speaker’s performance. If the speaker is confident, the
listeners will buy in to him/her, and, more importantly, into what they are
saying.

5. Quality – Content needs to be relevant, well thought out and
fascinating. The more interesting and unusual the speech, the more captivated
the audience.

6. Talk to the audience – A typical scenario of a bad speaker
performance usually involves the culprit burying their head in their notes.
Avoid this at all costs – address the audience, gain eye contact and make the
delegates feel they are getting your undivided attention

7. Avoid PowerPoint – Death by PowerPoint is all too common these
days.  Agencies such as Speakers for
Business advise people never to use visual aids unless they have important
graphs or other visual images to share. Technical hitches distract speakers and
audiences alike

8. Ditch the lectern – The lectern is a useless distraction and
restricts the speakers’ movement 
around  the  stage.

9. Chemistry – Connect with your delegates, attempt to gauge
their mood, be prepared to adjust and fine-tune your flow. Spontaneity is also
important.

10. Smile – Have fun on stage; if you enjoy yourself there is a
good chance your audience will too.

Brendan Barns is the CEO of Speakers for Business, one of the
UK’s leading speaker bureaux – which represents Charles Handy, Tim Waterstone,
Mo Mowlam and Dr Ken Robinson.  www.fb.co.uk

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