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never ceases to amaze me. Association meeting planners spend money to hire
me, publicize my presentation, pay my expenses, and then set up obstacles to
my success. Of course they don't do it intentionally, but all too often
roadblocks are put in my way that prevent me from giving the best customer
service. How does this happen? Being in the communications business, I
believe that it is a result of missed communication signals -- the
association meeting planner and the speaker are speaking two different
example, what the speaker considers essential for the restful night
preceding a presentation is often seen as "prima donna"
requirements by the meeting planner. The speaker asks for assurances that
the hotel room be quiet, away from the elevator or ice machine, and not
located just above the cocktail lounge. The meeting planner thinks this is
being too particular and merely reserves a room in the hotel. When the
speaker arrives at the morning presentation bleary eyed and "out of
sorts" because of lack of sleep, the meeting planner may question his
or her decision about the speaker's room selection. Who is to blame? Could
it be a lack of communication?
Hershkowitz, a professional speaker and author from Scottsdale, Arizona, sat
in on a planners meeting at the Georgia Chapter of Meeting Professionals
International Conference. They were talking about "speaker
selection" and she saw an opportunity to learn more about the decision
making process from the planner's point of view. "One meeting
professional was discussing his pet peeve: speakers he must call repeatedly
to get them to send hand outs and appropriate materials in advance,"
she said. "He was so upset about it, his association was now writing a
rider to each speaker's agreement that stated: "If handouts and all
requested materials are not provided at least six weeks prior to the
meeting, ten per cent of the speaker's fee will be deducted."
meeting planner asked the professional speakers there if they thought he was
being too difficult," Sue added. "We agreed that he had every
right to hold the speaker accountable -- after all the speakers work for
him," she concluded. However, as speakers, we need information about
the organizations we address as much as he needs the material from us. We
often do not get the appropriate information so we can't use the right
terminology or know about a recent crisis in the company or their industry.
Do we have a right to make similar demands?
personally do not like arriving at a speaking engagement when I don't know
the name of the president or CEO, what important changes the industry has
just been through, where I fit into the schedule, that my speaking time has
been changed, or who the other speakers at the convention may be. With that
knowledge ahead of time, I might make changes in my presentation. I always
ask for this information but I don't always get it. As speakers, we are
often asked to customize our remarks for a particular group. This is
possible to do only if we have received advance information. I was told
about a speaker who had promised to customize a talk to an association. He
had been sent information about the association well in advance so he could
incorporate it in his speech.
the meeting planner and speaker were walking into the ballroom, however, the
speaker asked the planner, "Oh, by the way, what do your association
initials stand for?" Obviously he had not read any of the material that
was sent to him.
meeting planners hire a photographer to take pictures of the speaker during
the presentation. They tell the photographer when the speech will begin, and
he or she starts shooting immediately so they can get on to the next
assignment. The meeting planner is pleased the photographer arrived on time
and is looking forward to seeing the photos.
speaker feels differently. The photographer creates a visual distraction,
away from the speaker, just as he or she is getting the full attention of
the audience. The listeners will follow the photographer with their eyes,
watching where and when the camera clicks. The speaker understandably feels
interrupted and thinks the meeting planner is undermining her/his chance for
an expert performance. The speaker has been hired to serve and now the
planner is keeping the speaker from being a success. What the planner
considers another "prima donna" request, the speaker sees as
giving good advice and customer service.
Walther, CSP, CPAE, wrote in his book, Upside-down Marketing, that the most
persuasive form of advertising is word of mouth from someone you know.
"It doesn't matter how many slick...brochures you see promoting a
certain automobile (or speaker)", he writes. "If your neighbor (a
meeting planner you know) owns one and complained to you about its poor
performance or persistent mechanical problems (unreasonable demands), you're
not likely to buy that type of car."
Hershkowitz also told me about a planner who works with a high profile
association. She received a letter from her speaker telling her she had
invited a planner from another organization to come to the event. The
speaker requested a guest pass, badge and a staff member to meet her invited
guest. The speaker said she would be too busy preparing her talk to take
care of her guest.
and meeting planners must learn to "partner" with each other.
Meeting planners are paid to determine how to make the meeting successful.
This involves having the speaker look good, helping them get a restful
night's sleep, and other reasonable special requests. Speakers must learn to
make the planners look good. They can make the meeting professional a hero
for selecting you.
the planner or speaker have not communicated for a few weeks and either
wants to confirm details again, try to set up a telephone appointment. This
is important as the speaker is often constantly on the road and messages
left by the planner often are returned when the planner is not in. Whoever
makes the first call should leave a message stating what times would be best
to call back and give the telephone number. The speaker can then reconfirm
the audio-visual requirements, the room setup, and the microphone needs.
Planners should reconfirm how the speaker will get from the airport to the
hotel. The speaker should give details such as the flight number, where the
flight originated, and the arrival time. Once the speaker has arrived at the
hotel, he or she should call to let the meeting planner know he/she has
your speaker is slated to speak after a meal and wine is being served to
guests, do not offer wine to the speaker. Ask if you can get them a soft
drink or bottled water. You are paying for optimum performance and should
not encourage any behavior that may take away from the performance. If there
are cocktails before dinner, offer water or a non alcoholic drink. As a
speaker, you should always decline alcohol. No matter how well you think you
can tolerate liquor, even one drink can impact your speech. You would be
surprised at how many meeting planners keep offering me alcohol before my
speech, just at the time I should be confident, prepared, and interested in
as meeting planner, you should never schedule a speech with any heavy
content after a meal. People are too relaxed. If they have been drinking,
they will not be open to a message about how they can better perform in
their jobs or learn about new technology for their industry.
a speaker, are you there for your own ego or recognition or to deliver a
message? As a planner,
are you there to look good or to provide something meaningful for your
members? The answer to both should be: we are there to make life easier and
more successful for one another.
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