How to tailor your speakers’ lineup to your audience

Trade show audiences want greater interactivity with speakers in real time.
Trade show audiences want greater interactivity with speakers in real time.

As audiences to trade shows and events grow more international, aligning your audience needs' with the relevant experts can be a delicate balance.

M&C Asia speaks to Gary Bender and Donna Kessler, co-founders and directors of Get Global, an Australia-based international MICE and travel trade show, and Saxton Speakers Bureau's CEO Anne Jamieson on how they're building the right speakers for a global audience.

1.    When it comes to aligning speakers with the audience, what's the first step in determining what the audience wants?

Get Global: As Get Global is a trade show for international products and services, we are mindful of our choice of speakers. Using Australia-based speakers to present at overseas events can be costly, so we need make sure these speakers are worthwhile.

Saxton: The first step is understanding the outcomes the audience might want. Sometimes this isn't as simple as just asking the event organiser what their ideal takeaways are from the event, so we use our understanding of the industry and trends to ask a series of qualifying questions to ascertain the real meaning and sentiment behind the event.

In the case of Get Global, the team has a solid understanding of the industry and what the attendees' expectations are, so finding high-caliber speakers that align with their needs is effortless.

2.    Are there any emerging trends when it comes to putting together an interesting line-up of speakers? Is there a specific type of speaker that's making the rounds at different events?

Get Global: It really depends on the event and its purpose. We have listened to feedback from the buyers previously, and Saxton have carefully considered the speakers that will be presenting at Get Global. Their topics are varied and highly relevant - and let's face it - who doesn't like a good gin and tonic?

Saxton: Last year we conducted comprehensive research into the forces and trends that will be shaping the speaking industry in the next few years. We surveyed event planners from Australia, New Zealand and South East Asia.

This research identified that the key themes that attendees want to hear about are Leadership, Future Insights, Mental Health and motivational or inspiring stories. We also identified that, above all else, event planners are looking for speakers that have the ability to tailor their content and messaging to their audience.

We also found that delegates want input into the content. They want to be able to engage with the speaker and topic in real time. We think that the way delegates interact with speakers and events using emerging technologies is going to be fascinating.

3.    How do you give audience the unexpected without going too far into the left field and risking irrelevance?

Get Global: Our audience are busy, intelligent senior buyers, so it's imperative to get the speaker mix right… Our brief to Saxton was focused on quality, and fortunately we got it without going too left field or over the top.

Saxton: When it comes to speakers, we are always on the lookout for bold new ideas and fresh talent. When we sign a new speaker, our team undertakes due diligence to make sure that we've seen them live and have a clear idea of what the key takeaways are from their presentations. Then it comes down to making sure that what the speaker brings to the table is aligned with the outcomes our client is looking for, and the sentiment behind the event.

4.    Can you give some specific examples of speakers who did not seem like a good fit for the event on paper, but turned out to be exactly what the audience was looking for?

Saxton: A couple of examples come to mind. In one instance a multinational client came to us with a brief for a Health and Wellbeing speaker. Knowing what we do about current trends in the industry, our team knew what they were really after was a speaker on mental health.

From there we asked a series of qualifying questions and ultimately brought the client around to the same conclusion. We ended up booking a young speaker named Mitch Wallis who speaks about his battle with depression and reimagining the healing power of the mind.

After the event, the client let us know that it was one of the best events they'd ever had and they were grateful that they had taken a bit of a risk and diverged from their initial ideas about the speaker line-up.

It comes down to having a true understanding about what the audience needs and confidently recommending a speaker that can fulfil this, even if they're not the most obvious choice.

5.    What kind of questions do you ask attendees to gauge their sentiments regarding speakers?

Get Global: The big question is…Would you book them for your next event?

Saxton: We have a comprehensive feedback process that always starts with a phone call by the relevant team member and their client. This is followed by a detailed post-event survey where we ask for comments on content, delivery, overall conduct and how well they delivered on the outcomes the identified by the client.

6.    How do you work with speakers to make sure that their content matches the event?

Get Global: Working with Saxton is easy because they do the research to come up with a speaker shortlist and provide the connection to communicate directly with them. Speaking to speakers in the lead-up, rather than by email, to give them the full brief and what key messages are required is a no-brainer.

Saxton: This process really starts before the speaker has been selected, making sure we have a clear understanding of what the desired outcomes for an event are. After that we make sure that the client and speaker have at least one phone call to discuss the speaker's content, messaging and delivery. Depending on the size and scale of the event, and the content required, we arrange multiple calls to make sure everyone is on the right track.

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