Next-Level Speakers: Why meeting planners are expecting more in 2016
This great article by keynote speaker Sara Canaday explains the qualities that speakers in 2016 must have to incorporate success in their speaking events…
In a recent blog series I developed for my corporate clients, I profiled the specific attributes that set ordinary leaders apart from the extraordinary ones. My research on this topic came from working with thousands of top leaders in a broad range of industries. Over the years, I listened to these leaders describe the characteristics they look for in high-potential employees—the ones with the power to take their companies to the next level.
In an interesting parallel, those same attributes apply to the expectations of clients and meeting planners when selecting a speaker. They have plenty of choices when it comes to finding someone who can fill the allotted time frame on the stage, but clients are demanding more in the coming year: someone who grabs attention more effectively, imparts critical information in a more memorable way, and generates a stronger impact on the audience (and the organization). For clients to inspire next-level performance among event attendees, they are insisting on next-level speakers.
Let’s take a closer look at the high-demand qualities for speakers in 2016 and a few tips on how to incorporate those for greater success:
Clients know that audience members are less than enthusiastic about sitting passively and listening to a “canned” message. That means we need to be prepared to let the audience co-create or even drive our presentations. We have to be adaptable, instantly deconstructing our messages based on audience reactions, questions and dialogs. One solution is treating participants like MBA students: giving them concepts they explore, debate, and apply to their own priorities. Next-level speakers have the flexibility to transform a presentation into a feedback-driven, two-way conversation that better meets the clients’ needs.
Attendees today want an experience, not an event. In-demand speakers often use technology tools to help create that experience before they ever step up to the podium, offering pre-conference assessments and presentation-building surveys. We also have to think creatively to keep participants engaged during our presentations. A few innovative techniques include using audience participation software, working in unique case studies, or conducting on-the-spot coaching (“hot seat” consultations) with audience members. Another way to shake things up is by speaking at unexpected venues like art-based spaces and modern, unusual environments.
Naturally, clients want speakers to make a presentation that ties in with the theme of their conferences or meetings. With the new breed of next-level speakers, making that link involves going the extra mile. We need to go out of our way to genuinely understand the client’s business, their customers, their culture and the specific goals for their event. As speakers, we can boost our effectiveness by ensuring that our presentations are strategically designed to exceed client expectations and generate tangible results.
Polished (physically and interactively)
Meeting planners and clients feel intense pressure when it comes to speaker success. The quality of a presentation (or lack of it) is a reflection on them. Their professional reputations are at stake, and they put their trust in us. Next-level speakers reward that trust by consistently exhibiting a “brand” that event organizers will be proud to share with their groups. That means we need to start with polished, sophisticated websites and marketing materials. We should be diplomatic and articulate in pre-event meetings and negotiations. We must show up for engagements looking impeccable and confident (but with just the right hint of humility and vulnerability). We should help solve any event mishaps and lend a hand if necessary. And when our presentations are complete, we need to stick around to interact with participants in a helpful, gracious way. From start to finish, next-level speakers have a “presence” that reinforces the decision to hire them.
Because essentially everyone has instant access to information online, new research and findings become old within seconds. Just like the challenges this presents for 21st century leaders, speakers today are being held to a whole new standard for knowledge and insight. Staying informed and relevant takes hard work and dedication, but it definitely helps to distinguish speakers with the capacity to add greater value. For us to be considered next-level speakers, we need to bring more to thev table than a general understanding of the clients’ industry. We need to combine our expertise in business and multiple industries to make points in fresh ways. For us to help our clients reach their event goals, we need to draw parallels that create light-bulb moments with lasting influence.
Incorporating these characteristics is an ongoing task for those who aspire to meet the higher expectations of meeting planners and be considered among the top speakers in 2016. However, I would be remiss if I didn’t share the same advice I give to my high-potential clients: lead with the one or two attributes that most align with your individual strengths. Trying to master all of these at once might actually dilute your impact or, worse, appear to be inauthentic. Here’s the important thing to remember. The effort you put toward embodying these characteristics—gradually and consistently—will be a wise investment to help you uphold the reputations of those who hire you and better connect with those you serve.