#Speakers101: Speaker Prep Timeline
4th in a Series
We've talked about what it takes to find and engage a mix of speakers for your event that will thrill your audience, send attendee ratings through the roof, and guarantee a sold-out event for years to come. But you still have to get from that ideal panel discussion in your mind to seeing them on the stage. To do that, you need to ensure the speakers have access to detailed support that is as thorough as detailed as your initial research was.
To accomplish this you need a checklist of sorts to guide you through what they need to know, and most importantly to make sure important details don't fall through the cracks. Never assume if a speaker wants to know something they'll ask you—its better to over-provide details than to fall back on assumptions that may leave people hanging at the last minute (trust me, it happens.)
Below is a rough timeline of when you should be reaching out to potential speakers, how to confirm their participation and what needs to be included in those conversations.
Three to six months out
Send out speaker invitations
Six months or more might feel early, but keep in mind that executives and super popular speakers can book up a year or more in advance. Also, securing speakers high profile speakers can help you recruit others, so lock them in early.
Things to note in your invitation:
Event date and location
Talk type: solo, panel, keynote, workshop
Topic or title
Deadline to accept invitation
Lodging and travel or any other perks that might entice them to accept the invitation
Speaking honorarium (if applicable)
Remind speakers of the event with updated details like talk times and locations
If they need to prepare any slides or other materials request them now
Gather speaker photos and bios ask for them now
Confirm travel details and related logistics
Airline details: flight specifics (ex. We’ve booked your flight on Virgin America VX5 on April 25, 2017 from SFO to BWI, Seat 4A) If they need to pick a seat or add their frequent flyer number, tell them here.
Hotel details, including confirmation number, address, nights, room/bed type
Host an introductory meet and greet for co-panelists, so they have an opportunity to connect with each ahead of the event and strategize about the conversation they'll have in stage.
Schedule rehearsals if possible. For panels rehearsing isn't as useful or necessary, but its critical for 1-2 person talks. If you can get the speakers to practice in the space where their talk will happen that's ideal, but its often not possible. In that case take advantage of spaces that replicate the size of the room, stage type and tech to be used (# of screens, etc.)
Confirm talk details and related logistics including
Talk date, time and location (ex. Your talk is scheduled for April 26, 2017 from 1-3pm in the Hilton Inner Harbor, Baltimore MD, Empire Ballroom A. Please check in at the speaker registration desk by 12pm on the Mezzanine level)
Include arrival instructions: transportation details, luggage storage
If you’re lucky everything will already be in place and you won’t need to ask for anything! If that’s the case just send a nice “Looking forward to seeing you, let us know if you have any questions for next week,” message and get back to putting out other fires. Because there will be other fires :)
If that is not the case, use this time to get any last minute issues addressed, update speakers on last minute changes, and get some rest before the big event.
Kill it! All your hard work to this point has paid off, so while there will undoubtedly be a few bumps, ideally things go smoothly and your speakers deliver impactful talks.
Send thank yous and a speaker survey to find out how it went and what can change for next time.
If this seems like a lot of work, that's because creating an effective speaker engagement program is just that. But the results are a group of happy speakers AND better outcomes for attendees, so its absolutely necessary.