In previous posts, we’ve talked about how to successfully invite people to speak at your event and how to keep programs lively once you get on site. This time, let’s look at what you need to do in-between – from the time a speaker confirms, until they go on stage.
First, you need to build a good relationship with your speakers and their handlers, whether it’s an assistant, chief of staff or communication manager. Find out how each prefers to be kept in the loop. Is it by email? Phone? Frequently? Rarely?
When a speaker accepts an invitation, I immediately send out a confirmation note thanking them for joining our speaker faculty. The note will include the day and time of their session, a request for their biography and high resolution digital photo, whether they want me to copy anyone else on further communication, and when they can expect to hear from me next.
I try to provide enough information to be helpful, but not so much that the bottom half of my email ends up unread. Most importantly, tell the speaker and handler what to expect; what and when they need to send me; and key dates. If the day, time, topic or moderator of their session changes, it’s very important to let a speaker know immediately.
About two months before the conference I often start hearing from handlers asking questions about the speaker’s session, how it will be conducted, how long they will have to speak, whether slides are necessary, what members of the press will be in attendance and/or the dress code of the conference.
I try to be proactive and get my own email out answering many of those questions before I start hearing from the handlers. If they are speaking in a panel, I let them know that I will try to get the panelists and moderator together on a conference call 3-4 weeks before the conference to help them prepare and hear how the moderator plans to run the session.
That leads to one of the hardest parts of speaker handling: arranging those conference calls. During the process, I also ask for each speaker’s cell phone number so that I can contact them with last-minute updates if anything changes on site.
Following these steps will help keep your speakers happy, focused and ready to delight the audience.