Meetings

Why Speaker Preparation Is A Must

By / Jan 31, 2019 (Martin Barraud/OJO Images/Getty Images Plus)

Preparing speakers for your association’s conference is a necessary step, but it can be one that’s overlooked. By telling your speakers about your attendees and the industry, you’re likely to have a more successful event.

A few months back, I was attending an event, and it became abundantly clear within the first five minutes that the speaker was giving a canned speech that he’d given many, many times before. It seemed as though he didn’t know anything about the attendees sitting in the room listening to him or about the industry they represented.

As I sat there, I thought to myself how much more effective the presentation would have been if he had personalized it a bit. In this particular case, who knows if either the speaker asked for information about attendees or the industry, or if those planning the meeting had provided it to him, but what it does highlight is that associations need to be helping to prepare their speakers.

There are a number of ways this can be done, but here are a few ideas I came across that are worth considering, if you’re not doing them already.

Host a preconference webinar. Ahead of your conference, it’s a great idea to get all your speakers together online or over the phone and provide them with some event details. This could include a brief attendee profile, including their demographics and topics or trends that are top of mind for them, as well as an overview of your association’s industry. For example, ahead of its 2018 meeting, the School Nutrition Association held a speaker webinar that covered some of these points and more. The Council on Licensure, Enforcement, and Regulation did the same for its September 2018 Annual Educational Conference.

Match speakers with a mentor. Another idea is to consider asking speakers who have previously spoken at your conferences to serve as mentors for new or less-experienced speakers. They can share the presentation styles that have worked for them, their insights into the audience, and even challenges they’ve faced. For example, the National Association of College and University Attorneys has a Speaker Mentor Program that pairs experienced speakers with those who would like to gain more speaking experience. Mentors provide advice and guidance to one mentee on how to either become a NACUA speaker or how to improve speaking skills.

Put tools at their fingertips. In addition to webinars and mentors, associations would be smart to create online toolkits or other resources for speakers. These cover everything from formatting slides and engaging the audience to marketing presentations on social media—the Legal Marketing Association included all three in its presenter toolkit. Beyond these basics, some associations are also helping their speakers to create more inclusive presentations. For the American College Personnel Association, this means educating speakers on the seven principles of universal design, working with people who use interpreters, and using inclusive language.

How do you prepare your speakers for your conferences and events? Let us know in the comments.

Samantha Whitehorne

Samantha Whitehorne is editorial director of Associations Now. More »

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