The relationship between a speaker and a meeting plan- ner has some unwritten rules
for politeness. Unfortunately, neither
every planner nor every speaker
knows what they are.
Luckily, by starting with courtesy
and consideration, each party has the
opportunity to teach the other.
Your rights as a meeting planner:
} To be told that the speaker has arrived (by text, voicemail, or in person).
} For the speaker to be amenable
to a sound check or other reasonable
requests that will help you feel more
confident about their presentation.
} To have the speaker show up properly
dressed and ready to present their best stuff.
} For the speaker not to pitch from the
platform without prior approval.
} To get any handouts, books, or other
items in ample time for distribution.
} For the speaker to act in a professional
manner from the moment he or she arrives
at the venue until the moment they leave.
} To have the speaker present the content
that you hired them for, without tangents or
going too far off the path.
You have the absolute right to these things,
and perhaps more. After all, the speakers
you’ve chosen are important to the success of
the event and the satisfaction of the meeting
owner who hired you.
Some speakers overlook your needs. Most
likely, rather than conscious discourtesy,
this is because they just don’t know your
You have to let speakers know in advance
what you expect. Just as in any relationship
in your life, the speaker can’t read your mind.
What you think is normal and polite may be
something that the speaker has never even
considered before. You might want to provide a “pre-event checklist” as a separate file,
incorporate it into the contract, or make sure
it is in the speaker’s room upon check-in.
The speaker has a right to want a few
things from you, too. All successful relationships require a little give and take. Here are
some things to provide speakers to ensure
they do not complain about you or your organization behind your back:
} Invitations to attend meals in addition
to their speech. Some speakers love to do this
— the business attracts a lot of extroverts. But
there are also those who are not, or who are
coming off a multi-city tour, or who picked
up some germ on an airplane somewhere and
out the night before your event may
not be in their best interests or yours.
The solution? Ask with an option.
} Logical sound checks. Expecting
a speaker to do a sound check at 7
a.m. in your time zone when the
speaker doesn’t go on until midafternoon is tedious. Find out if there
are flexible times for a sound check
and give them to your speaker.
} Prompt payment. Speakers are
actually a surprisingly small com-
munity, and they talk about you when
you’re not there. Fast payment is one
way to get a great reputation in the
entire industry, not just with one speaker.
Same goes for providing feedback from the
audience or the C-level attendees.
} Creature comforts are quite welcome.
Speakers wax lyrical when they talk about
meeting planners who put a gift basket in
their room, or who made sure they had a
nice, quiet room and enough time to sleep.
Skimping on caring for your speakers is
penny wise but pound foolish.
} Simple praise. Speakers are often fueled by a sense of contribution, with a
heavy sauce of ego on top. Giving some
quick verbal feedback — before and after
their presentation — is a great way to get
them eating out of your hand that costs
By Wendy Keller
How to Speak to a Speaker
Meeting planner etiquette for interacting with speakers
Wendy Keller is a Chicago-based author, literary
agent, and speaker who specializes in addressing resilience
— how to bounce back from anything life throws at you
and thrive. Her inspirational story and a description of her
speaking topics can be found at www.wendykeller.com.
It’s key for planners and speakers to be on the same page