Do’s and Don’ts of working with special guest speakers
When bringing in a special guest speaker as a draw for an event, conference or show, many things can go right … and many things can go wrong. Special guest speakers don’t come cheap, (some home and garden speakers command upwards of $12,000 or more) so to get the most bang for your marketing bucks, here are some do’s and don’ts of working with paid performers.
R & DDo due diligence and research. Speakers are an investment in your show so make good choices. You wouldn’t bring in some former WWF persona for chair breaking demos at a garden show; but if that person is the Hulk Hogan of the garden world and is upcycling the broken chairs in a garden design with 479,000 followers, that’s completely different. That, my friends, is a PR dream come true.
Plays well with othersA good speaker, especially at a consumer show, doesn’t keep the limelight to themselves. Dr. Lori, the antique appraiser and frequent featured speaker at The Novi Home Shows, was an expert not only in antiquities, but in giving shout outs to businesses and exhibitors at the show. She would also walk the hall floor before her shows, saying hello to fans and stopping at booths to take photos.
Go localFor a secondary stage or additional speakers, consider tapping your local market for special guests. The area recognition can help with PR and marketing, especially because they come with built-in access to media. Consider bloggers and influencers from the area as well. All Seasons Communications developed a Learn from the Locals lineup for a Novi Home Show. We tapped a local TV personality who enjoys DIY to the extreme, a successful home trends store owner and exhibitors with specific talents to take the stage and answer questions from the show attendees.
Work ‘emProfessional speakers are paid very well for their knowledge, experience and fan base. The cost covers a certain amount of stage time or speaking sessions, typically twice a day. I try to get the most out of speaker fees by scheduling media junkets the day before a show opens and in the mornings. Pros will not hesitate to participate in the extra promotions as it only helps themselves.
Cheat sheetIf you chose well, and media gods are in a good mood, then your special guest should be garnering a lot of attention from the press. Help them (and yourself) stay on track with a simple spreadsheet with dates, times, and locations of any press events. Also include stage times, with extra padding built in. (I once had to increase my blood pressure meds on account of one speaker’s habit of waltzing up to the stage at the very last minute.) I put important phone numbers and travel details as well.
Best laid plansKeep in mind that even the best laid plans can fall apart. Once, during an obviously slow news day, I had (somehow) convinced the media to come out to a Polynesian hula demonstration. All three major media outlets in the Detroit market were enroute to the event when a major news story bumped the story completely off the boards. Be flexible and something better might come out of the perceived calamity. Finding the right person to entertain and educate your intended crowd can be an enormous undertaking and coordinating all the scheduling can be a challenge. Heck, I’ve had trouble getting a Starbucks order right for a speaker. Just remember, the experience you provide to your show guests and the potential media frenzy around your speaker is well worth the effort. Plus, you get to meet some really cool people.