Look for the 4 E’s when booking your next conference speaker.

Posted by on April 8, 2010 in Blog | 1 comment

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There are more than 1 million meetings in South Africa per day. These are not just three or four friends getting together over a beer – these are formal gatherings ranging from budget discussions to conferences, conventions, training sessions and motivational sessions for under-performing employees. According to Gillian Saunders at Grant Thornton, there were 101 000 conferences held in South Africa in 1999. From these figures, it doesn’t take rocket science to extrapolate the need for high quality, top class speakers.

There are speakers aplenty. Some of them speak because they have “the gift of the gab” and someone once told them they did an excellent job as MC at their third cousin’s wedding (the same reason people enter Idols). Other speakers ascend the platform because they are experts in their field, and have found that there is a very real demand for their expertise. Whatever the reason, as clients and audiences, you incur great costs, both in terms of money and time to have them speak to you.

When you evaluate a speaker (before choosing him or her) it is always a good idea to determine whether the speaker will meet the “4 E’s” of delivery. These serve not only to engage the audience, but also to ensure that you get value for your money and time.

It goes without saying that you pay to listen to a speaker because you would like to be educated. Your life and your business should be enriched in some way after having listened to them. Apprentice speakers are very adept at reading a book and delivering a commentary of the book as a speaking engagement. Or, reading several books on a subject and then stringing quotes from all the authors together. The education aspect of a talk should be so much more than that – we can go out and buy the book the speaker quoted from for a fraction of the price. Speakers who are worth their fees will include “know how” and “to-do’s”, strategies and trends, and, at the top of the pyramid, analysis and opinions on how to improve.

It is essential that the speaker is able (and willing to) empower the audience to use his/her advice. We’ve heard speakers who use their time on the platform to sell their book / CD or “coaching” programme. They spend a lot of time bragging about their results, and very little time giving the audience something they can take home and implement with immediate effect. You’re paying for the time – make sure you’ll get direct value from it. The speaker must have the ability to make his content easily accessible to everyone in the audience. Understand that your audience dynamic will influence the “level” at which the speaker pitches his expertise. Make sure that everyone leaves the meeting with something that they can take away and implement immediately – from the youngest to the most senior employee!

While we acknowledge that “motivational speakers” don’t exist because nobody can truly motivate anyone else (true motivation comes from within and is therefore determined by a person’s state of mind), it is essential that speakers be encouraging towards the audience. Whatever your field, audiences should leave a speaker’s session with at least some form of encouragement. Remember that all change starts with the decision to change first. In order to make that decision, people need to feel encouraged. I believe this is one of the major differences between South African and International speakers. Our local speakers (many of whom are equally as good and better) have a ability to invite the audience to try their ideas, whereas the international tendency is to force the content on the audience. You can do it. Go for it. The world’s your oyster!

Effective speakers, those speakers who command the highest fees and are most sought-after, have developed the ability to make their topic and their hour on the platform E ducational, E mpowering, E ncouraging and E ntertaining. Now I’m not saying they should be stand-up comics, but even world leaders generate very little enthusiasm from their audience when they drone on in a monotone voice. Didactic research shows that humour and entertainment create powerful anchors to help in the retention of a speaker’s message. So do stories. Expert speakers are often expert story tellers, weaving their content and message into a carefully crafted theatrical roller coaster of emotion. From the dawn of time, legends were passed on in through telling stories. That’s where mankind’s history is safeguarded, and that’s where eloquent speakers leave there message to be remembered long after the audience have forgotten the speaker’s name.

Before you spend another cent on your next employee meeting where you’ll listen to a subject expert, make sure that they’ll deliver on the Four E’s. This will guarantee money well spent and, best of all, an audience raving about the time they’ve spent away from their desks.

1 Comment

  1. Great post, thanks Erik. Very relevant to a lot of speakers I know.


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