Report: Organizations Want Speakers To Do More Than Speak

A new survey sheds light on what organizations are expecting from professional speakers and what’s changing, or not changing, in the learning industry.

Organizations are expecting more from professional speakers than their time on stage. They’re also willing to spend more on speakers than they were a couple of years ago, according to a new report.

The Speaker Report: The Use of Professional and Industry Speakers in the Meetings Market” [PDF], which surveyed 175 organizations, found that about 66 percent of the respondents who hire professional speakers want them to contribute more than a presentation.

Make it known that you want to raise the bar and really work with speakers to collaborate and meet those higher expectations.

Organizations are expecting speakers to publish articles, do interviews, and participate in different aspects of the event, said Jeff Cobb, cofounder of Tagoras, which conducted the study with Velvet Chainsaw.

Cobb said he found that result encouraging, along with the finding that organizations are putting more effort into preparing volunteer or industry speakers. “It goes with the overall trend of organizations trying to raise the quality bar for meetings and putting emphasis on making sure learning is happening, that attendees are really getting a good return on investment,” Cobb said.

Some other key findings:

Demand and budgets grow: The surveyed organizations, 46 percent of which were professional societies, also reported hiring more speakers in 2013 (14.6) than in 2011 (11.2), the last time the survey was conducted. Annual speaker budgets also increased. This year, more than half of respondents had a budget of more than $30,000, while in 2011, less than half of respondents had that much to spend. Cobb attributed some of the increase to the general economic rebound.

Measurement stands still: At the same time, the number of organizations measuring the impact of learning did not increase much from 2011. “Less than half are measuring whether learning is happening, and that hasn’t gone up a whole lot,” Cobb said. “We certainly hope to see some advancement in that in the coming years because we think it’s going to be more and more important for organizations to be able to say, ‘Our meetings, our education, are actually having an impact—they’re moving the dial for attendees, and by extension they’re moving the dial for the profession or industry that we’re serving.’”

Is the bar high enough? A third of organizations are accepting 60 percent or more of the submissions that come through calls for proposals—although some organizations are eliminating this process. “That makes us wonder whether there’s enough of a filter for the proposals or whether they’re setting the bar high enough,” Cobb said. “If you’re accepting more than half of those proposals right off the bat you’ve got to wonder, are you really getting the quality of content and experience that you want in your meetings?”

What else can organizations take away from the report? Cobb advised setting expectations and working collaboratively with both volunteer and professional speakers to create better presentations.

“Make it known that you want to raise the bar and really work with speakers to collaborate and meet those higher expectations,” Cobb said. “Give them as much support as possible, and prepare them for the event.”


Katie Bascuas

By Katie Bascuas

Katie Bascuas is associate editor of Associations Now. MORE

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