Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Do you take anything in your coffee?

Who is a conference planners' greatest asset? That would be her speaker(s) of course!

You work hard to make sure that your participants are comfortable, but how hard do you work to ensure your speaker(s) are happy?

A happy speaker = a better speaker. Better speaker = happy participants. Here are my tips for ensuring you have a positive relationship with your conference speakers.
  • Engage them often throughout the planning process. Often we book our speakers up to 6 months ahead of our event. Alot can change from the first time we spoke to them so make sure you drop them a line giving them an update about your event.
  • Give them the "lay of the land". If you are not doing their hotel booking, make sure you recommend a hotel that you are familiar with. Look for a hotel within walking distance of the event venue.
  • Channel your inner "welcome wagon". About 2 days prior to their arrival, email them a "welcome wagon" package which contains information about the community. Make sure you include maps or links to maps for the running/walking trails, the location of the closest Starbucks/Tim Hortons, a movie listing for the dates they are in town for, etc. I usually partner with the local tourism office to compile this information. Be sure your your package includes any changes to the conference agenda.
  • Offer them a ride. Don't assume that they will be renting a car at the airport, make sure you offer them transportation. Even if you don't have time to pick them up, often there is a member of your conference team who can pick them up and deliver them to their hotel. 
  • Leave a message. Leave a personalized voice mail message on their phone in their hotel room that they can listen to upon arrival. It may say something like, "Welcome Susan! Thank you for participating in (insert conference name). I wanted to invite you to the reception this evening downstairs in Grand Ballroom. It begins at 7:30 and dress is casual. I look forward to meeting you"
  • Rise and Shine! It is really important that you are available in the morning to meet your speakers/facilitators as they arrive at the venue. They have spoke to you over the phone, they have corresponded by email, now is the time to meet them face to face. Which brings me to the next tip....
  • Youtube! I have met my speakers "virtually" prior to the event by harnessing the power of Youtube. I have uploaded a short video welcoming them, providing details about the event, etc. They really like being able to put a face to the name.
  • Don't leave me! There is nothing worse than seeing a speaker panic when their powerpoint won't work, or their mic quits. Make sure that you provide audio/visual assistance for your speaker. They will appreciate it...believe me
  • Thank you! Two small words, big impact. Let them know you appreciate their participation.
  • And the survey says.....Lastly, provide them with the post event survey results, particularly the results that are about their presentation. Even if the results are not all positive, your speaker wants to know.

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