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Fall of the prima donna: The role of the new Speaker Professional

Probably the best time to have been a professional speaker was in the 1990s. Those that had made a name for themselves on the speaker circuit were paid very well to speak. They showed up 15 minutes before their slot, did the gig and then headed for the door. This left conference organisers agonizing about the content they would deliver, if they would arrive on time and generally keep to their brief.

This was the prima donna speaker. Great content but difficult to work with.

Keynote speakers have been an integral part of conferencing since there have been conferences. In modern conferencing the role the speaker is evolving. And it’s about time.

Of course, there are different types of speakers for different occasions: The big-name politician or celebrity to pull a crowd and generally inspire; the industry professional who has deep technical knowledge to share. In between these are the professional speakers, those that make a living delivering content they have researched and crafted over time. This article highlights the role of this speaker.

Starting with the term “professional speaker”

A speaker professional becomes an integral part of the success of a conference by:

  • Viewing themselves as part of the conference team and a contributing factor in it’s success.
  • Attending (in person if at all possible) a detailed brief as early in the planning process as possible. Given their experiences a speaker professional can provide incredible insight to planners on what works or what may not work at a conference. It is also during this brief that a speaker professional comes to understand the key message of the conferences and will work out how to thread his or her content into the conference theme.
  • Arriving early, preferably before the start of the conference day. This serves several purposes: First the organisers know their speaker is there and they don’t have to fret about them being on time. Secondly, the speaker professional will be present for earlier presentations which allows for seamless call backs to earlier content where relevant.
  • Attend a post event brief to help with assessing the success of the event and insight for the next.

Bonus added value from professionals: There are very few speakers who go beyond simply delivering their keynote content but those that do can help contribute so much further to the success of the event. Speakers that have a high ability with working with people and crowds can do the following:

  • MC the conference day. So much more than simply introducing the next speaker modern professional minded MC will ensure the golden thread of the conference run through the day; will keep speakers briefed on their speaking time allocation and keep the day on time and high energy.
  • Facilitate panel discussions or on stage interviews in a way that delivers high value content that is kept on topic and relevant.
  • Conduct on camera interviews with other speakers that results in 3 or 4 minute filmed clips that can be used to ensure the message lives beyond the conference or for marketing messages for the next conference.

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