A conference producer is not an event manager. They are a combination of investigative business journalist and market researcher. Conference producers research and design a profitable program agenda which seeks the best speakers on the brochure. The best events have those speakers who are as popular as rock stars and sell tickets. Simple as that. As a conference producer my best events were the ones who had a speaker that everyone wanted to see, hear, and talk to. Most of the time these speakers were exclusive to us on speaking about a particular topic, thus making our programs highly competitive. The speaker line-up can make or break a conference.
So, how does a speaker get to that caliber? Expertise. You have to be someone who is a renowned expert among your peers and industry. Knowledge is power as the cliché goes. For example, you can’t just be a clinical trials expert but rather the one person who knows about protocol for testing on human subjects in North America, Europe, and Asia. This is a speaker who has enough depth of understanding in a subject matter that they can deliver niche knowledge. It’s the distinction that marks a neurosurgeon that specializes in cartilage repair versus a general surgeon that does standard operations. You have to know answers to trivia and be positioned as an authority that has access to all the key players in your industry. Basically, when you speak your word is gospel and you function as a power broker of information.
One thing that made a speaker unattractive for conference producers was someone who spoke too much. This is a bad sign as far as we are concerned. There is no way such a speaker could offer any exclusive strategic information if they appeared to be repeating key messages all over the conference circuit. Also, do not use a speaking opportunity to sell. You sell best when you offer a superior intellectual product, which is your speech itself, and the clients you want will be drawn to you by its content. The last thing a conference producer wants is for a talk to turn into an infomercial on stage. Unfortunately, speakers who are self-employed consultants with lack of publishing credentials in their industry are not top of the list. Most conference producers want an executive in corporate America so if you are an independent hire gun, better have as many big chips endorsements as possible. Better yet, teach at a legitimate college to emphasize that you are there to share knowledge instead of promote your business. If you comes across like a hustler, no matter what your business specialty is, we won’t book you unless we are desperate.
What a conference producer wants is expertise and credibility so tone down the self-employed identity and tone up on intellectual power. A perfect example of a star human resources keynote speaker is Adriana Llames of Chicago. For over a decade she was a recruitment consultant who leveraged her profile through her business columns and rooster of high end clients. If you follow her example as an independent, you may well be on your way to speaking success!
Guest post: Rheba Estante