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12 Mistakes in Hiring Your Convention Speaker

Peter Urs Bender's 12 Deadly Sins

By Shannon Moore


Every speaker has horror stories. So, unfortunately, do meeting planners, Speakers' Selection Committee Chairs and Program Chairs responsible for whole conferences. Oftenthese can result from the way a speaker was hired. Internationally known speaker Peter Urs Bender has seen it all, and shares his experiences here. You can laugh, but if you're in the meeting business you will probably encounter every one of Bender's"Twelve Deadly Sins" -- and more. Here are a dozen pitfalls you can avoid.

Deadly Sin No. 1. You find a video of a speaker that knocks your socks off. She can walk on water. He can jump tall buildings. They motivate people to action like Moses parting the Red Se. Remember that Moses' tribe is all your convention people. Your speaker might lead your people into the sea -- then you may watch as the sea closes around them before they're out. The reason? The video you misinterpreted. For it, the speaker took four different speeches, and just showed you the highlights from each. That creates a false impression of a speaker's power. A video alone is no way to judge effectiveness.

Deadly Sin No. 2. You see a speaker. You like the speaker. Then you tell the speaker to speak on something totally different. He or she needs the money and agrees -- but you will lose...

Deadly Sin No. 3. You find a $10,000 speaker. You nickel-and-dime him down to $4,999. Then just before he gets on the platform you share with him all the problems you've had with the convention so far. Just to make sure you're going to get your money's worth, you give him a hard time, telling him the average listener has to work 4.5 weeks to earn the speaking fee he's getting for just one performance. How motivated do you think he'll be?

Deadly Sin No. 4. You go to the Internet. You find the American expert who speaks all over the world. You pay him in $US, plan to dine him first-class. Then he gets locked up at customs because he didn't get his permission to speak in Canada. Get the paperwork right!

Deadly Sin No. 5. You ask your relatives if they know a professor at the university who knows a lot about your subject. Such a person has to know his stuff. He has three PhD's on the subject you want him to talk on, therefore he is an expert in the topic. Remember, however, that he might not be the expert in communicating it all. It's no sin to bore university students to death!

Deadly Sin No. 6. You were lucky to get a full-fledged 45-minute video on a great presentation from a great speaker. It was sent to you as a demo. Instead of paying the speaker's fee, you think you'll just show the video to your people. If you haven't got a budget, say so!

Deadly Sin No. 7. You happened to be at a small workshop with 25 people, and you found the presenter of your dreams -- the right voice, the right words, the right knowledge, the right attitude. Just the right person for your 300-person lunch. So you hire him, and suddenly -- in front of all these people -- his pants come undone, his voice is jerky, he forgets everything. To put it mildly, you don't look to good. You've just hit a case where he's perfect for 25 and terrible with 50 or more. It happens! Check him out on audience size beforehand.

Deadly Sin No. 8. You hire a speaker who has a perfect canned presentation you've previewed, but at the last minute before he goes onto the platform, two things go very wrong. The speaker should be able to adapt, but can't. Caned presentations, aren't flexible. They can be interrupted and destroyed by the simplest things -- the bar opening too soon, people yapping in the audience, the time needing to be cut short.

Deadly Sin No. 9. You might notice that in your own associations you have a speaker who knows a lot about the topic you want. So you take Jack or Susie to do it. You should know that you almost never find a prophet in your own backyard. Prepared for a letdown.

Deadly Sin No. 10. You saw the presenter doing a dog-and-pony show in Las Vegas with video, movies, lightning, voiceovers, elephants and smoke. He performed on a grand piano with candelabra. You want him to do it in Halifax, but all you have is a triangle for him to hold in one hand and a hand-held microphone for the other. Be realistic in your expectations. If you want a show along with your speech, you have to provide the theatre.

Deadly Sin No. 11. You have space on your program for a 45-minute presentation, just before noon. You hire a speaker to fill the space. Then, at the last minute you have to cut the presentation 30 minutes because your program is running late and the bar opens at noon, sending 600 people stampeding to belly up. You'd better be sure you have a presenter who can cut the cloth to fit, and is'nt upset by sudden changes in the plan!

Deadly Sin No. 12. You have a neighbour with the same name as Tom Peters, Roberta Bondar, or another well-recognized name in the speaker business.

Peter Urs Bender is the bestseling author of five books. He was one of Canada's most dynamic speakers and was based in Toronto. Ontario. He died in March of 2005.


12 Mistakes in Hiring Your Convention Speaker

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