Paul Rulkens is a personal and organizational development consultant and professional speaker. He helps improve business results by making people, teams and organizations more successful. Currently, he is responsible for building a high performance culture in DSM, a global material and life science company.
Paul recently shared an article with me that he wrote with me about keynote speakers. Trying to find the right keynote speaker for your event can be daunting. There are many variables to consider and the last thing you want is a speaker who is not a good fit for your event.
Paul has identified ten common mistakes that people make when hiring keynote speakers. By making you aware of these mistakes, Paul and I hope that you can avoid them, and that your audiences will remember something special from your event (besides what was served for lunch).
Below is a summary of the ten common mistakes that Paul has identified. To read the entire article, please click the image at the end of this post for the PDF file.
1. Not defining what a successful event will look like. Your business event has a purpose. Ask yourself (or the person responsible for the event) the following questions: What do you want your audience to know? What do you want your audience to feel? What do you want your audience to do? Once you have clear answers, you can start looking for a speaker who fits your needs.
2. Not being clear about the outcome of the speaker’s presentation. Different speakers have different strengths. Some are entertaining; some are organized; some are inspirational. Hiring an entertaining after-dinner speaker to give a mid-morning keynote address might not be a great fit.
3. Hiring an egocentric speaker. You can recognize egocentric speakers by their need to squeeze their story in, regardless of whether it will help you achieve the objectives of the event. A good keynote speaker thinks of the people in the audience first and leaves a lasting, positive impression on them.
4. Ignoring the role of the speaker in meeting the event organizers’ objectives. Professional speakers work with the event organizers to help them achieve their objectives.
5. Not having a follow-up strategy. For events where you want to bring about lasting change—for example, among a small group of co-workers—a one-time event rarely works. Professional speakers should be able to give you suggestions on ways to follow-up. For example, the speaker might offer one-on-one consulting, or he might know another speaker who has expertise in the area, or he might be able to recommend reading material or an on-line course.
6. Not asking for references. This one is so important. Contact people for whom the person has spoken before. Whatever else you ask, be sure to ask this question: “Would you hire this speaker again?”
7. Hiring the cheapest speaker. You get what you pay for. Once you have your budget, hire the best speaker you can afford.
8. Focusing on lowering the fee. A good speaker comes with a large fee. While it might be tempting to try to get the speaker to lower the fee, focus instead on increasing his or her value. Explore whether there are extra things that the speaker could do for his normal fee—for example, a some short one-on-one meetings with a couple of people in the audience—at the end of the event.
9. Getting the speaker in and out quickly. Involve your speakers in the programme. Have them attend previous sessions so that they can build on what has been said. Also have them be available afterwards as people love to talk to the keynote speaker.
10. Hiring a speaker when you need something else. Sometimes, you don’t need a big speaker; sometimes, other solutions will work. For example, you could have a panel discussion involving three or four key people from your company or trade association.
There are many things that you must think about when organizing an event. On some things, you might be able to cut corners. A keynote speaker is not one of those things. Avoiding the above-mentioned mistakes will help ensure that your hired speaker adds real value to your event.
If you would like to get in touch with Paul, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.