“I book 350 speakers a year,” says the meeting planner. The salad suddenly becomes less important, with this nourishing new conversation.
As the lunch conversation continues, I ask the question that all speakers want a real answer to, “what do you look for in a speaker?”
The smile is wry, the answer thought of beforehand.
“One. I want a speaker who will customize their materials to my group.”
With the downturn of the great recession, there was a winnowing of the inventory of speakers. Said one meeting planner, “Speakers who used to command five figures, now will gladly take the cash flow of four.” The mass customization of the business world is seeping down into speakers. Researching the customer’s challenges and market is a given, as specialization continues to ooze over meetings.
“Do you have to use humor to be a professional speaker,” asks the apprentice? “Only if you want to get paid,” responds the wizened old pro. If you listen to the humorists, there is gold in knowing the industry terms and phrases. Another way to tap into the audience mindset is to invest the time into their education, visa vie, Dale Ervin’s professional summarizer method. Humor grows out of connecting with the general thinking of the audience. Almost everyone flies on airplanes, so all comedians talk about the traveling experience. If you can customize your material, and humor to connect with the audience . . . booyah.
“Two. I want a speaker who is easy to work with.”
Said one meeting planner, “I must set deadlines for handouts, bios, and introductions. When a speaker misses those and makes me wait, when I have internal timelines to meet, it drives me crazy.” This is not the proverbial green M&Ms issue. This is doing what you should be doing, before you need to be doing it. All meeting planners need your presentation title and a description. All meeting planners need your headshot. An introduction? “Yes I think I will.” Quit reinventing the wheel. Create those asked for resources and have them where they can be cut and pasted into the meeting planners systems early on.
While you are at it, why not write a handful of great articles on your subject, that you can proactively send to the meeting planner? They can use in these in their newsletters to educate and excite. One recent meeting planner told me that she thought my entertaining articles were driving higher attendance at the pending convention.
“Three. I need a speaker who can tell me what the future is going to be and how they can help my meeting participants be prepared for that future.”
Great lawyers know the answers before they ask the question. Great salespeople have heard the problems before and know the answers already (which can often cause problems should they not let the buyer talk.).
Because everybody suffers from trying “to read the label from inside the jar”, there are serious impacts that a speaker can make bring by painting the future.
Your expertise and background qualify you as someone who has “been there before”. Learning begins when people are made aware of things they never realized before. These blind-spots, these Scotomas, make the participants humble and willing to learn.
Your ability to paint a future state and how the customer can deal with that has a simple and powerful term assigned by your customers . . . vision.
But what happens if you don’t feel you truly can see the customer’s future? Repent. Start networking with thought leaders. Read, and then read some more. Subscribe to Mad Magazine so you can see trends before they pop into the cultural conscious. Breakout of your normal web surfing and engage with sites that challenge the status quo. Get out and test your pacemaker. Did I say read? At one National Speakers Association national conference Jeffrey Gitomer disclosed that he found great ideas, that no one seemed to know about, in older books that were 50 plus years old.
Once you have built that future in the minds of your listeners, then do that which you are already literate in. This is the simple “How-To” personal expertise that we overlook. “Surely they don’t need someone so simple as that?” Are you forgetting the label and the jar? You are an expert.
The simple method to determine what the customers future is, and what skills they need to be prepared for it is to ask, “what are your biggest challenges?” Write them down as they give them. You will be heralded as brilliant for doing this. The customers future will be centered on these challenges. If you help them comprehend, and address them . . . you too will be a visionary. You too will be the speaker they MUST have.
Of course you have your humor down, your stories and interactions. And yes, you have done your due diligence in learning about fees, marketing and sales. But you knew that, because you too asked your customer, “what are you looking for in a speaker?”
Let’s compare notes. Interesting. It looks and smells the same. How futuristic is that?