Gail Davis, 17 July 2014
It is important to have an agenda, but critical to set it up so the dialogue can be free flow. For example, I might ask the following questions:
-What was the most memorable thing from this year’s event?
-What improvements can we make?
-What should we continue to do?
-How would you rate this year’s speaker on a scale of 1-5 and why?
-Any suggestions for future speakers?
Let people talk. Be open. Be sure to have several scribes. Provide refreshments and come from a place of wanting to be sure you hear their feedback. You will use this information later when you’re taking ideas to your leadership for buy in.
Industry contacts are also critical. When a decision maker is investing in a speaker, the fees can cause many questions. My experience tells me that most folks in the C suite want to do what their competitors are doing. When you come to the table with that info, you are providing value. How do you get the info?
There are two obvious way. One, you can develop your network by going to on-site inspections or joining organizations like MPI or FICP and making connections you can call on. This approach is solid but due to its organic nature, it takes time. The other way, find a trusted partner who can tell you what others are doing. Much like an experienced planner would not do an event at a new location without a DMC; an efficient planner would not book a speaker without an agent. Not just any agent, but an agent who gets it. Someone that is willing to find out if the speaker being considered for your event has experience in your industry. An agent that is willing to get you referrals. An agent that is willing to push for a pre-booking or a pre-event call. An agent that doesn’t just read you the speaker bio, but an agent who can tell you what the speaker speaks about and how your audience will feel. After all … isn't that what it's all about?
Armed with the knowledge of what your attendees think, and what is happening in your industry, you are equipped for a very successful meeting ending with a decision.