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Speaker Pet Peeves: Things That Annoy Professional Speakers About Meeting Planners

Last column in this series I offered insightful solutions to some of the biggest challenges plaguing our planet, or at least plaguing small, dusty corners of the professional meetings world (as a reminder, please review the article highlighting meeting planner pet peeves which most of you, owing to its Pulitzer-esque tenor, will have posted near your computer, right next to the photo of your cat/dog/child/favorite Spice Girl).

So now it’s time, as my grandpa used to say, “to flip the bird.” No, that’s not it.

I think it was something more along the lines of: “It’s time to flip the pancake to see if it’s burnt.” I don’t think he was being the least bit metaphorical,  but as a speaker I have the ability to turn bigstock-Stress-7508650any mundane saying into something profound with layers of hidden, syrupy meanings stacked atop each other like, um, pancakes.

Anyways, the point my grandpa was making was that if you don’t flip the pancakes, they will burn, stick to the griddle and it will be a real pain to clean up. Which I interpret to mean that since in the last issue I talked about meeting planner pet peeves about speakers, it’ll become a real mess if I don’t now highlight some of the pet peeves professional speakers have about meeting planners.

This was a challenge, by the way, because most motivational speakers don’t have pet peeves, they merely have “unlimited opportunities on the freeway of life to turn annoying speed bumps into puppies.” Still, I managed to uncover a few peeves that were particularly peeving the professionals.

1.   Meeting planners who don’t return phone calls.

Running a meeting is all about the communication. And above all else, the table center pieces. But also the communication. Which is why many speakers complain about meeting planners who won’t return their phone calls.

As a professional speaker and former teen idol (and no, this is not germane to my point, but the inclusion of irrelevant background material has, evidently, become standard practice in the speaking world), here’s my foolproof method for getting a meeting planner to return your call: leave a voice mail message telling them how much you are looking forward to seeing them, but use the day AFTER the actual date you are supposed to be speaking on. This not only ensures you get an immediate response, I have found that very often they will fly to your house in the middle of the night to meet with you.

(And for the record, I tried to get a quote from a meeting planner on this topic, but she never returned my call.)

2.  Meeting planners who change the length of your presentation at the last minute. 

The solution for the meeting planner is to buy a watch.

For the speakers, the solution is to prepare presentations that last different lengths of time, from 4 minutes to 380 minutes. So yes, I have a talk that lasts 4 minutes, but I also have one that lasts 5 minutes. And 6 minutes. And 7 minutes. I think you see where this is going. I have 376 different versions of each presentation ready for whatever comes my way, so when the meeting planner says, “Mike, I know we had you booked for 87 minutes but we’re a bit behind schedule, can you do something in 86 minutes, I simply smile and reply, “Okee-dokee”, secretly knowing that my 86-minute talk rocks compared to my 87-minute one.  (Helpful hint to the speakers out there: meeting planners love it when you use the phrases “okee-dooke” and “you betcha’ champ”)

3.  Meeting planners who balk at speakers fee.

The solution for the meeting planner is to take to heart the old adages “You get what you pay for” and “How can I come and speak at your event for less than ten grand when I just bought a third house in Muskoka?”

Meeting planners also need to take a closer look at other areas where they may be able to trim expenses, such as open bars, mimes, and allowing the senior management team to fly to the meeting when Greyhound has more than 1400 routes across Canada.

When balked at, the solution for the professional speaker is too balk back by saying something like, “If you think my fee’s extravagant you should see what Oprah charges. It’s simply outrageous.”The key, incidentally, to successful back balking is to up the ante with the level of balkiness and to punch the word outrageous, which momentarily distracts the meeting planner, allowing enough time to slip in a reference to your first class travel expectations.

 4.  Meeting planners who disregard your audio-visual requests and instead think it will be “fun” if you present atop a floating fake iceberg in the middle of a pool while dolphins frolic about and incidentally we don’t have a lavaliere mic but we thought you could use a handheld, corded mic and flip chart instead of the multimedia presentation you spent six weeks preparing.   

Solution for the meeting planners: please, stop doing this to me.

Solution for the speakers: always pack a wetsuit.

I hope this column has once again helped bring speakers and planners closer together. Or, as my grandpa used to say, “The trick to eating pancakes is to eat them one at a time and make sure your dentures are well secured.”

And I think we all know what he really meant by that.

Michael Kerr is a very funny Hall of Fame professional business speaker and and funny motivational speaker.,


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