A lot of meeting planners—and by a lot, I mean three—have asked me this rather brash question: “How can we ever be sure we’ve hired the right speaker for our meeting?”
My response: “If you haven’t hired me for the meeting then I’m not sure you can ever be sure.”
To which they reply, “And you are…?”
To which I reply, “Bond. James Bond.”
To which they reply, “Huh? Is that supposed to be funny? Is that why you wore a tux to our 9:00 a.m. meeting?”
To which I reply, “Thank-you, I do look rather awesome and…aren’t we getting off topic?”
The topic being, how can you, as a meeting planner, ensure you’ve chosen the right match for your next meeting? How can you be sure you’ve booked yourself a Sean Connery and not a Timothy Dalton? What if you need Halle Berry to help you save the next meeting and you end up with Roger Moore in drag? These, I’m almost certain, are the thoughts that keep most meeting planners up at night.
So here, my esteemed and steemed meeting planners, are some methods that even James Bond himself might employ to make sure you’ve invested in the right speaker for your next meeting.
1. Can the speaker actually, you know, speak? This may be setting the bar rather low, but as someone who has followed politicians, CEOs, former professional athletes, and a dolphin (don’t ask) on the platform, it’s not a bad rung to start on. You can usually determine this through a quick phone call, but don’t be fooled –many speakers use voice doubles (please see the aforementioned dolphin reference) to help them sound eloquent over the phone, but when you meet them in person they’re as coherent as Jodie Foster at the Golden Globes. Or Ben Affleck at the Oscars. Or Bob Dylan singing anything after 1978. Or Flipper.
2. Check references. Now anyone can check references, but if you’re doing due diligence diligently dutifully, then I’d check the references of the references. They’re the ones that need to be grilled and held accountable for their outrageous statements such as, “Best speaker ever!” Seriously? So you’ve heard every speaker on the planet who’s ever lived? Really? (It’s outrageous statements like this that forced me to start culling them from my own testimonials and accepting only mediocre, and for the sake of authenticity and balance, extremely hostile comments.)
3. Go You Tube trawling. If the speaker is young enough you’ll find some videos from their college days that should tell you everything you need to know about their character. And if they’re older speakers you won’t find any videos because they won’t have even heard of You Tube. Who am I kidding? They won’t even have an internet connection! Either way you’ve played the role of good old Mother Nature by eliminating speakers that are too old or too young to connect with your target prey, ensuring the circle of life along the speakers’ circuit can carry on with a bunch of cranky, aging boomers.
4. Friend them on Facebook and monitor their posts. If they post more than three times a day they clearly haven’t made it yet as a full time speaker, hence the enormous swaths of time on their hands.
5. Ask speakers this killer question: “The meeting demographics is 45% women and 47% men, ranging in age from 5 to 89. It will include senior leaders, front line employees, interns, potential employees, customers, potential customers, suppliers, potential suppliers and partners, a few of our competitors, our local political representatives, Mrs. Donovan’s grade three class (they’re adorable), and Canada’s Olympic synchronized swim team. Plus a visiting delegation from North Korea, a group of deaf children from the local institute of fine arts, a dozen blind Tibetan monks and some civil engineers. Oh, and possibly the guy who played the butler in Fresh Prince of Bel Air. So my question is, how will you tailor the presentation to fit the needs of our audience and how will we be able to measure our return on investment? For bonus points provide your answer in the form of a Haiku.”
Many newer speakers, when posed with this question, will openly sob in front of you. Please try not to be alarmed, offer them a tissue, and move on.
Anyone, however, who has made it as a professional speaker should be able to answer this question in such a way, be it through a meandering, disjointed polemic on the polarization of free speech issues unresolved by the Napoleonic code of virtues and the unassailable assault on individual liberties that necessitates a radical shift, nay, a comprehensive rethinking of Descartes’s Meditations on First Philosophy that only an unparalleled and systemic approach underlying falsifiable parameters of intent would force, or, as I’d earlier postulated, coalesce the intent of universal conformance of the unifying principle first denounced, then embraced by none other than Stephen Hawking himself, that the sheer audacity of the luminosity inherent within the very soul of mankind cannot even begin to comprehend what I’ll be saying to your audience or how invaluably valuable their return on investment will be.
Plus, I’ve added some totally awesome sound effects to my PowerPoint transitions that I think will totally rock.
Oh yes, one last thing. I plan on wearing a tux, and really, what better way to Bond with a diverse audience than that?
Copyright 2013. Michael Kerr is a very funny Canadian motivational speaker, international business speaker and trainer. He is the author of Putting Humor to Work, Inspiring Workplaces and The Humor Advantage: Why Some Business Are Laughing all the Way to the Bank. This article first appeared in Speaking of Impact: The Voice of Canadian Meetings.
“Just wanted to say “WOW!” Our group has had many speakers over the years, but none the likes of Mike Kerr.”
Richard Dansereau, President, NAPA Autopro BDG
“Michael Kerr is one of the best speakers I have seen. I highly recommend him!”
Veronica D. Bouvier, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, Aspen Properties Ltd.
“Mike held the full attention of our senior management team for a full FOUR hour
presentation – no small accomplishment!”
Martine Rothblatt, CEO, United Therapeutics
“Our participants rated you as the speaker with the highest quality and relevance.”
Lana J. Larocque, Alberta Human Resources