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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Free vs. for Fee Speakers - Opening Keynote

Free vs. Fee Speakers
By Ed Rigsbee, CSP

When is it cheaper to hire a professional than it is to hire free speakers? The answer that many meeting planners would instantly offer is, never. I had an eye-opening conversation with the executive director of an association based in the eastern part of North America. If you answered the opening question the same way, hopefully, this will open your eyes.

The executive director said to me, "Ed, I discovered it was cheaper to hire you to speak for two days at my meeting than pay the travel and lodging expenses of the four free speakers that I was thinking of using." For many years now I have been conducting multi-day for single-fee programs, and still, his comment was truly an eye-opener for me.

In an effort to be accurate, I should share some additional details with you. First, the meeting venue is Maui, Hawaii and some of the free speakers would fly from eastern North America. Second, I offer multi-day programs eliminating the need for additional speakers.

Deliver Value vs. Fill the Void
Do the people responsible for particular meetings want to offer usable take-home value for the meeting attendees or do they simply want to fill a void? Last spring, a meeting planner hired me to present at her national fall meeting. Since I live in the Greater Los Angeles area, she suggested that I might want to attend her coming Western Regional meeting that was to be held in Los Angeles.

I took her up on the offer and arrived early enough to hear the keynote speaker, a local college professor of marketing. Following the keynote, I said to the meeting planner, "I thought your members were in industry." She responded, "They are." And then went into long discussion about how disappointed she was that the professor was so off-target for her group.

The Real Cost of Cheap
What percentage of the attendees from the above mentioned Western Regional meeting will rush to attend that same meeting the next year? What percentage will wonder if they again want to listen to an off-target college professor, who thinks he is addressing retailers but in reality is addressing industrial fabricators? How many potential following-year attendees did the professor lose for that meeting planner? Would this situation make your meeting appear to be shoddy or inferior?

Supplier companies love to send their representatives/salespeople to speak at conventions, as it is free publicity-even if they have to pay their own way. Sometimes the meeting attendees are lucky in that the supplier's speaker will be motivating while offering usable content. Sometimes they aren’t so lucky, especially when the supplier's speaker does not take the time (like the college professor mentioned above) to either understand the needs of the audience or plan an honest presentation. Too often attendees only get a sixty-minute commercial. After a sixty-minute commercial, what percentage of attendees will break down the doors to attend the following year?

What percentage of your other suppliers would also be outraged? How excited will they be the following year to belly up to the table and again pay more than their fair share for the meeting? Fair Share? Yes, suppliers always pay more than regular members. Associations justify the higher charge since they "get business" there.

Could the above combination of situations cost you 10 percent of your attendees the following year? And again cost you another 10% of the reduced number the year after that? And what about the following year? Could this be the reason for the downward spiral many associations are currently facing?

Saving with Professionals
Professional speakers live and die on their reputation. Please do not confuse celebrity speakers with professional speakers. Celebrity speakers get paid gobs of money to speak at a meeting, not because of their eloquence, but because of the average person's desire to be in the same room with them-to experience them live. Their job is exclusively to attract people to the meeting.

When I talk about professional speakers, I'm talking about the people that earn the lion's share of their income from speaking at meetings or conducting trainings and their related books, tapes, etc. These are the people who generally interview and research the issues and needs of their audiences and tailor or customize their proven material for each unique audience. These people are experts in their field or experienced sorry tellers or humorists.

These are also the people your attendees expect at their meeting. These are the speakers that deliver solid take-home content while also creating a motivating environment. They have to be exciting, motivating and funny-or they don't eat!

Keeping in mind all that has been mentioned above, why in the world would you settle for a free speaker? Especially, when that choice could be the most expensive. Don't your meeting attendees deserve the value they expect?

* * * *
Fellow speaker Ed Rigsbee, CSP is the author of PartnerShift, Developing Strategic Alliances and The Art of Partnering. Visit www.rigsbee.com.

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Saturday, January 17, 2015

80/20 Rule in Meeting Management - Opening Keynote

The Pareto Principle -- the 80/20 rule -- can be of great help in coping with a long list of tasks to be accomplished especially in regards to planning and conducting a meeting. The mind boggles at long lists and many people become discouraged before they start. Or they begin with the easiest, leaving the most difficult for the last, and never quite get around to them. It helps to know that most of the benefit to be derived from doing what is on the list probably is related to just two or three items.

Select those two or three, allocate a block of time to work on each of them, and concentrate on getting them done. Don't feel guilty about not finishing the list, because if your priorities are valid most of the benefits are related to those two or three items you selected.

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Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Conquering Audience Resistance - Opening Keynote

Noted speaker, author, and High Point University president Nido Qubien has observed that "Barriers resulting from audience resistance fall into two categories: external factors that cause people to tune you out, and internal factors that prevent them from giving you their complete attention."

1) External Barriers
People often form first impressions on the basis of external factors, says Qubien. "If the first impression is negative, you won't get the person's attention. Look for characteristics of dress, speech and actions that may be turning people off. If your dress is too casual, frivolous or distracting, you may be losing listeners. If your voice is strident, shrill or guttural, people may find you unpleasant to listen to. In certain areas, regional accents may turn people off. If you speak with a pronounced regional accent and are doing business in a region where that accent is not commonly heard, you may have to look for ways to overcome this barrier. You may want to work on acquiring a more generic accent. Or you may want to spend some time cultivating the person's confidence."

2) Internal Barriers
"Internal barriers to communication may stem from a lack of interest in what you're saying or a lack of understanding," he says. "If you discern a lack of interest, find some way to lead your listener to identify with your message. How does it concern your listener personally? What bearing does it have on the listener's job, income, health, family, or security? Once you establish that point of identity, you'll have attention."

In conclusion, "People have a way of erecting defense mechanisms and emotional barriers when they feel threatened by what you are saying or by the way you are saying it," notes Qubien. "Studies have repeatedly shown that people, like other creatures, feel protective of their territories. Invade those turfs, or act in a threatening manner, and you will be sure to turn off their attention. When your task is to deliver an unpleasant message or to persuade your listener to take some unpleasant action, look for ways to neutralize the negatives and to reassure the person who feels threatened."

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Sunday, January 04, 2015

A Source of Great Advice - Opening Keynote

A friend of mine in the speaking business had just finished giving a presentation and, characteristically, many people lined up to speak to him. One woman asked him a question, in the form of “would you recommend doing XYZ?” His response was, “Yes. That sounds pretty good,” to which she replied, “Well it's in your book on page 156.”

Sometimes we need to review what we've written before we get front of audiences because they've reviewed what we've written.

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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Employ a Speakers Bureau - Opening Keynote

Some meeting organizers fear that a speakers bureau representative can't know enough about the industry, the audience, and the particulars to find the right person. Among the larger bureaus, however, many of the booking agents have developed specialties. Such agents can do an outstanding job of finding the right speaker based on your industry, your audience, and your particular needs.

In many cases, such agents have a better grasp of the situation than you do because they have encountered similar situations on many past occasions. Fortunately, it only takes a few minutes to ascertain if a booking agent has sufficient background to assist you in very precise ways.

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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Conference Attendees Crave Connection - Opening Keynote

More people live alone in the U.S. than at any time in history, and the trend is beginning to take hold in Europe and other parts of the industrialized world. The average number of occupants per dwelling is actually falling. For many people, television, online services, and the ability to connect with the world is the usual interaction they have throughout the day away from work.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Warm up Your Listeners - Opening Keynote

Some of the best speakers I know employ a tried-and-true technique for warming up an audience: getting them to offer applause, three times, early in the session. For example, I recall someone effectively using this approach: "Let's give a hand for the food service people who prepared and delivered our breakfast this morning. Also let’s recognize the people at (organization) who flew me in to be here with you. How about a round of applause for them? Last, and certainly not least, how about yourselves? You took time out of your busy schedules to be here. Let’s have a round of applause for everyone here."
At this point, what audience wouldn’t be focused, ready to listen, applaud, and have a good time?

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