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Hiring a Speaker The Right Way: Building Your Audience

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If you want to hire a speaker to come to your business or organization, you’re doing so to put them in front of an audience. Figuring out who is in the room is one of the most important steps in event planning.

As part of our ongoing blog series about hiring a speaker the right way, we’re now turning our focus to attendees. That’s what speakers want, and what you need to provide. There are three critical questions:

  1. Who do you want in the room?
  2. How many people do you want?
  3. How will you get them to attend?
Hiring a Speaker: The Audience

© Flickr user mikebaird

Who Do You Want in the Room?

This is not always a difficult question to answer. If you’re hiring a speaker for a membership organization, then you probably want as many of your current members there. But what if your event is really geared toward recruiting? In that case, you might want a mix of seasoned members and prospects.

Many events where we send speakers, however, are groups that are trying to draw from the general public. In that case, it’s worth your time to spend a few minutes coming up with some written personas. That might be as simple as “a middle aged middle-manager in a professional services organization” or “a young mother who will be heading back to work.” These will give you ideas for how to market the event, but will also tell your speaker how to tailor their presentation.

How Many People Do You Want?

The correct answer to this question is simple: you want enough people so that the room is almost too crowded, but not quite. That’s because a room that is nearly overflowing creates great buzz for the speaker and for the audience.

Keep in mind that the layout of the room is part of the trick here. If everyone is seated at round tables, it will take far fewer people to fill a space than if there is standing room only.

So, use your venue and work backwards!

How Will You Get Them To Attend?

There are several ways to ensure people come to your event. The most common is also the worst: making it mandatory. Any time you require people to be somewhere, you automatically make them less interested in showing up. That means the speaker has to do a lot more to get individuals engaged.

Another way is to offer incentives. This could be free food or drinks, or a raffle prize. The danger in using incentives is that people may decide to come to the program for the wrong reasons.

The best way to get people to attend is to market effectively. Work with your speaker to get a compelling program description. Or survey people in advance so they have a sense of ownership in the selection of the presenter.

Hiring a Speaker: Getting an Audience

© Flickr user etech

That’s how you build an audience! Come back next time when we talk about program design: before and after the speaker does their talk.

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