How to choose the right keynote for your event

Tim Sanders
November 23, 2011

Tim Sanders

Technology Pioneer, Expert on Disruptive Collaboration, Best-Selling Author and VP of Customer Insights at Upwork

Common question I get: "What speakers do you recommend?" 

My answer is, "It depends on the objectives of your event."  As wishy-washy as it sounds, the reality is that a 'great speaker' may still be a miss for your event.  It's not just about skills, hi-content or even fame - the speaker must deliver game changing ROI for your organization.  More than ever, meetings must justify their existence - just like advertising, salaries, etc. 

To paraphrase Nick Morgan, "The only reason to have a meeting is to change the world." In other words, meetings are a great platform to shift thinking, moving the attendees from Point A to Point B.  In the case of Interface Inc., a single sales meeting in 1997 produced a paradigm shift: "Stop stealing from our grandchildren by creating sustainable business practices." How did they do it? The speaker's were chosen for their POV, social fit and willingness to roll up their sleeves and apply their expertise and brand to the situation. 

In her remarkable book, Resonate: Present Visual Stories That Transform Audiences, Nancy Duarte explains that the greatest speeches move the audience from Point A (status quo, a broken place) to Point B (vision, a better/best place).  This is why I believe that my job as a professional speaker is to be the outsider hired to validate and activate the insider's agenda or point of view.  If you hire a speaker to generate buzz or get butts-in-seats, you are wasting your money - and risking that your budgets will get slashed during any downturn. 

1.  Create a post-meeting Vision For Success.  What is the current thinking/doing pattern that your leadership team wants to tweak or flip?  That's Point A, and there is NO organization that couldn't use a little thought-tweak.  For example, at a recent event I was hired for, we determined that the leaders of the company thought that technology was the center of their business.  The new CEO wanted to change this, installing a new perspective: People are the center of the business.  His new vision was the secret to the company's turnaround, and he wanted to leverage the offsite leadership meeting to get the ball rolling.  My job, then, was to leverage my credibility (author, former Yahoo exec) and content to move my audience to a more people-centric way of leading ... Point B.  

2.  Screen speakers for Point B Capability.  Why are they qualified to tell your audience to change? How do their talking points line up with and validate your leader's own?  Schedule a phone call to interview the speaker candidates, trust me, they are willing to do it to win some business.  Divulge the leader's agenda for the meeting, measure his/her reaction - push them to give facts, figures and examples to validate the vision. 

3.  Review the finalists for meeting-fit.  Does he/she have the appropriate style, level of energy and personality?  Will his/her credentials be sufficient to get the audience to grant him/her 'provincial authority'?  Who's willing to work the hardest for your event to succeed? 

By taking this approach, you'll get more out of your meeting, and WOW all the stakeholders at your company in attendance.  You'll demonstrate tremendous business acumen in your speaker selection process, and really hedge against having a speaker that doesn't connect with your group - and causes your leaders to ask you, "why did you pick him???!!!!" 

If you are pushing Positive Thinking, People Centric Business and a Relationship Oriented Approach - then I'm probably the best fit for your next event.

Tim Sanders is avaiable to provide a potent, motivational message at your next event. For more information, visit PremiereSpeakers.com/Tim_Sanders.

Tim Sanders

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