Five Tips to Make Your Speakers Shine


At MCI we are conference planning professionals who work continuously with members and volunteers to ensure not only that conferences are successful, but also to enable volunteers to engage the highest and best use of their time during the conference planning process. Since MCI depends on speakers, in particular, to provide the high quality content which draws attendees to events, it is particularly important to assist them in every way possible to ensure that they are confident and prepared for their session on the day it takes place. Here are the five items below have helped MCI speakers significantly as they prepare their conference sessions.

1. Provide Content Experts for Content Questions

Used software copyright laws? Spectrum auction? The psychology of the legal workplace? Though we may not be knowledgeable on any of these topics, we have had phone conversations on all them before scrambling to refer the speaker to a more knowledgeable member of the association. Before you have to scramble, consider connecting your speakers with a volunteer member, perhaps from the Conference Committee, who can serve as their point of contact for those content-related questions. Just be sure to make it clear that all logistical questions and all forms should still be sent to you.

2. Turn Boring Reminders into Exciting Opportunities

Instead of sending the usual, "Reminder: Speaker PPTS Due Today", I often use subject lines like this:

"Mobile App Launches Next Week! Submit a Resource for Our Attendees Today!"

This is really just a deadline reminder in disguise, but it places the emphasis on how speakers can engage their audience before the conference even begins, building a sense of excitement about the upcoming event. MCI has actually had speakers who were not originally planning to submit materials decide to do so after seeing an email like this — they didn't want to miss out on a great opportunity!

3. Hold a Pre-Conference Play-by-Play Phone Call

Set up a phone call to review a play-by-play of what speakers can expect before, during, and after their sessions. If you have moderators, be sure to include them too. You can provide information on when to arrive, who will be introducing them, and how they will be given time notifications. Your speakers will thank you for the clear directions, and you will be happy on-site when speakers are prepared and confident and have fewer last minute concerns.

4. Establish a Procedure for Handling On-site Issues

Whether a speaker's USB drive corrupts, they forget to ship their handouts, or they can't find their co-presenters (all things that have happened to us), it is best to have a clear procedure for managing major and minor issues on-site. This is as simple as giving speakers instructions for reaching you during the conference. Make yourself available by email and ask speakers to see another member of staff if they need to find you quickly.

5. Say Thank You Early and Often

This is certainly a polite and necessary thing to do, but remember – it pays off for you, too! Speakers who feel appreciated are happier, and happier speakers are, in our experience, more flexible and more apt to go above and beyond for your association. Thank them before, during, and after the event, for the time they spent developing their presentation, the materials they provide, and the efforts they went to in order to travel and give their presentation.
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