There's no doubt about it: guest speakers are the stars of your event. Nothing will define the attendance rate or the way your audience feels more than your guest speakers.
They are the ones who add the most value by sharing their knowledge, thoughts, and skills with the attendees - in short, they can influence greatly influence the overall experience. So it's no wonder why you are willing to dedicate massive time and effort to facilitate the logistical steps the guest speakers need to take to attend your event. Also, it's completely understandable why you don’t want to be too intrusive and ask your guest speakers to promote your conference or to adjust the speech to certain criteria.
Yet, because of your shyness, lack of experience, or inability to communicate efficiently, you may miss the opportunity of harnessing a possible collaboration with the guest speakers. As Joe Goldblatt, professor at Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh, notes, "All speakers require an investment of time, and time is money. To maximize your investment, communicate clearly and often to the speakers what you want them to accomplish. Determine if they can perform other functions at your event."
Your guest speakers are real gold mines in terms of event marketing, event experience, and audience engagement. Thus, as an event manager, your responsibility is to build efficient and coherent communication that will benefit both you and them.
Here's how you can do it.
Tip #1. Check if your guest speakers are social media influencers
Do some investigation and find out if the speakers you invited at your event are online authorities. You can evaluate this fact easily by analyzing your guest speakers’ social media accounts.
How many followers do they have? Are they active on social media? Do they interact with other people? If so, don't hesitate to ask them to share some information about your event. You could also encourage them to post about your event on their social media and use specific hashtags. Of course, don't be too intrusive and assess if this inquiry won’t generate any discomfort. Articulate your request only if they agree to collaborate.
Tip #2. Send your guest speakers a guideline for the presentation
How many times did you notice attendees falling asleep or playing on their smartphones while a top speaker talks about trendy topics, delivering an extremely boring presentation?
Too many times to count, right?
One of the solutions is to choose your speakers wisely. Yet, what can you do if a top professional who has lots of value to add to your attendees has no clue how to design an engaging presentation?
The only option is to help him or her by providing presentation guidelines where you could specify the speech duration, slide format, recommendations and best practices. Inspire your guest speakers to deliver killer presentations. Help them improve their speeches and save your attendees from boring rants.
Tip #3. Discuss the audience engagement strategies with your guest speakers
Although you probably hired a good moderator who knows how to interact with the attendees, you should dig deeper. Talk to your speakers about the audience engagement strategies you may want to apply.
How about live polls, quizzes, and tests? Or how about planning a more interactive presentation where the event guests will have the possibility to intervene more often than usual? Discuss all these aspects with your guest speakers and decide which strategy is the best one.
Tip #4. Co-design a Q&A session dynamic
Q&A sessions are an amazing opportunity for the attendees to better understand the presentation or clarify any doubts they may have. Yet, a poor dynamic design will minimize your audience's intervention.
So take the time to talk with your guest speakers about the way you should organize the Q&A sessions. Maybe instead of a traditional format, it would be more engaging to plan fireside chats or a mid-presentation Q&A. Other idea is to encourage the attendees to submit their questions via an online platform. This way, even the shyest of guests will want to participate.
Tip #5. Promote your speakers
It wouldn’t be fair to ask your guest speakers to advertise your event or dedicate extra effort and time in the preparation of their presentations without giving something back. So how about arranging some interviews with local journalists, for example? By doing so, you’ll help your guest speakers promote themselves, and be sure to mention that the reason they traveled to your city is to present at your event.
Whenever you build an initial communication with the guest speakers, don’t hesitate to go further and explore a potential collaboration in terms of promotion, event experience, or audience engagement.
See if the speakers would be interested in spreading the word about your event on social media. Also, work with them through the audience engagement aspect by tackling subjects such as strategies to increase attendee interaction, provide the appropriate the Q&A session design, and deliver engaging presentations.
Finally, search for a way to add value to your guest speakers by promoting them. An efficient and coherent communication with the guest speakers will definitely boost the quality of your next event, so don't hesitate to do it.