Tell us a story: Three questions to ask when choosing your next speaker

Selecting the right speaker for your event will mean the difference between making a lasting impression and making no impression. While the appreciation for one speaker over the other often has much to do with one’s personal style and taste, there are some critical key factors in picking the right kind of speaker for your event.
Choosing a speaker for your corporate meeting or event
People have a multitude of options for events they can attend in their professional field or personal lifestyle hobbies. When selecting a speaker for your event, you are competing for attendees to select your event over another and also competing for their attention once they arrive. So given these two very important objectives, the speaker selection should not be made lightly!

A speaker needs to tell a story. Storytelling is by far the most effective style of presenting almost every kind of subject matter. People connect, engage and obtain knowledge on a deeper level when being told a story. Effective storytelling can drive the message home to the audience in a way that reaches people with varying perspectives and opinions. Whatever the subject matter, a speaker can bring the audience into their presentation by associating even the smallest component using storytelling. Historically, the speakers that are the most engaging are those that rate the highest in post conference evaluations.

For example, a presentation is being given about the impact of emergency room wait times on the healthcare of Canadians. While statistics and information related to the evaluation of the issue are important aspects to the presentation, tying in a story of any kind will ensure that the audience stays engaged. Perhaps the speaker will tell a short story about a family’s personal experience on the matter. Perhaps the speaker will tell a short story about their own experience on the matter. In either situation, an audience member who might be withering from a day of being “spoken at” suddenly perks up because they are being “spoken to”.

A speaker needs to care. A speaker that cares about the subject matter they are presenting will resonate more with the audience than someone who doesn’t. This does not mean that the presentation has to be emotional. Quite the contrary! What it means is that it is very obvious to an audience when a speaker is presenting on a subject matter that are knowledgeable and that they care about their topic.

When considering potential speakers for your next event, ensure that the following questions are posed at the committee planning meeting:

  • How much do they care about the subject matter?
  • How invested are they in the subject matter?
  • How well can they infuse stories into their presentation?

These criteria are a great starting point for identifying the best possible speakers for your event. When speaking with potential speakers, have the conversation about what will be discussed and what methods they will use to get their message across. Many speakers are happy to share their experiences and stories to help impart the knowledge they are being invited to speak about.

In the end, a successful event is one that people talk about and tell others about. Storytelling should, and can, inspire storytelling.

About the author:

Sally Clelford is the President and owner of Face 2 Face Events Management. Sally launched the firm in April 2006 and since that time has seen the business grow year to year into a highly successful and well respected company providing event management services to clients across the country. Previous to launching F2F, Sally worked as the event manager at the Canadian Health Services Research Foundation for six years (from 2001-2006). Prior to that, Sally spent four years in project management and event management at Health Canada (from 1998-2001). Sally is also currently the President of the Ottawa branch of the professional actors guild in Canada (ACTRA Ottawa) and has been sitting in this position since June 2009. Sally has been a professional actor since the age of fourteen, having performed in theatre, film and television over the span of her career. Sally is also currently on the board of directors for the Canada Dance Festival. Sally spent three years working in the tourism industry, having spent two years (1994-1996) working in Jamaica managing and operating a SCUBA diving centre and water sports centre. Working with locals, Sally contributed to the development of some of the popular tours that still operate today on the north coast of Jamaica. After Jamaica, Sally spent one year (1996-1997) in Santa Barbara, California managing and operating a water sports and dive centre. Sally spends her time working on developing her business as a producer of professional events, her business as a performer, and also contributing by sitting on various boards and committees where her expertise can be utilized. Sally resides in Ottawa, Ontario with her husband of 15 years.

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