I wear two hats. I am a professional speaker and I am an event planner. It’s always helpful to have an understanding of the people with whom you work – their challenges, goals and pain points. If you are aware you can be prepared and present yourself in the best possible light when you are negotiating a speaking agreement. Here then are five points to help you understand Event Planner World:
1. “I didn’t say it was your fault, but I am going to blame you”. This is the daily reality of most event planners. Apart from organizing the logistics of an event the event planner develops the construct, the budget, hires vendors and does a lot of hand holding with nervous clients and senior leadership types. Here’s an example of a day in the life: The linens arrived and there weren’t enough or the colors were wrong. The rental equipment is scarred and dirty, the hotel rooms aren’t all in pristine condition, the bus company didn’t provide experienced drivers, the AC doesn’t work, the food was cold AND the speaker showed up late and said they needed a wireless mic and an internet connection (surprise!) along with a special meal. The speaker’s content had no relation to the title of their program – but other than that, everything went smoothly.
2. The Event Planner serves a variety of constituents. The leadership of the organization has a vision for the event, the staff has an opinion, the guests respond to different topics/speakers in their own way. Timing is everything – the flow of the events of the day, the venue determines the level of interaction, the acoustics are critical, the seating choices affect levels of satisfaction. Budget/finance often rule the day. What worked last year won’t work this year because if the same participants are present they will be frustrated and annoyed.
3. It’s not all about you. We both know that a great speaker can make a huge difference in the effectiveness of the meeting or conference. Personally, I believe it is the single biggest factor – but not all event planners get this. Be aware that the expense sheet that planners work with is long and many items are non negotiable. Budget busters can be just two or three line items and a newish event planner can underestimate the value of paying a professional speaker. It is your job to instill confidence and value in you and your fee and the impact your presentation will make to the group.
4. Fear of embarrassment is a huge motivator. The more you can understand the audience, the event and your role in the event, the more confidence you will have in yourself and you will be able to instill in the event planner. There is always a debrief after each event and the critiques can be scathing – you will likely never know it.
5. Your job is to make the event planner a hero for being smart enough to hire you. You want to be the least of her worries. Call her when you arrive at the hotel the night before (or the day of if it’s a local event). Arrive early to check out the audience, do an AV check, confirm any timing changes or special situations with your contact. In other words, if you do everything you can to be the least of the event planner’s worries that day, you will be making a friend who will refer you other event planners.
Breeda Miller is a board member of NSA Michigan and works creating and implementing strategic events for the University of Michigan. Breeda speaks about the critical role of self care to health care professionals as well as family caregivers. Finding humor and grace in horrible life circumstances can make all the difference in the world. Breeda helps people to be creative, courageous and kind.