Professional speakers add value, but can you prove it?
Of course, with the corporate meetings sector cutting back and slashing budgets (as much as 30% by some accounts) we are all being called to account for results. One of the 10 Principles of Guerrilla Selling is “Measurement.” It’s easy, but most speakers don’t bother.
There are five levels of metrics that speakers and event planners should apply to every program, every speaker:
1. Did they like it?
These are the “smile sheets” that you collect after the applause. It’s relatively easy to get a standing ovation. In fact, I have a testimonial on my web site that says, “Yours was the highest-rated program we’ve ever had; 5.0 out of 5!” But for the most part, these numbers are meaningless. Every professional speaker should be engaging and entertaining. Otherwise you’re better off spending the money upgrading the lunch entrée from rigatoni to chicken.
2. Did they remember it?
Do you quizz participants after 24 hours, 72 hours, and at the end of a week, to see how “sticky” the material was. Most “motivational” speakers fall into this trap. People will recall that “it was a great speech” but can’t tell you one new thing that they learned. Really good speakers build their programs so that the audience remembers the point as well as the punchline. Otherwise, skip the speaker and splurge on the standup comic. I hear Jeff Foxworthy is available for about the same fee as an average NSA keynoter.
3. Did they use it?
Great information and innovative ideas are useless if they’re not put to use. An effective speaker should leave their audience feeling, “I can DO that!” They should take back practical guerrilla action items that they can use right away, and feel confident taking the initiative. If a professional speaker doesn’t change people’s behavior as well as their attitude, you might as well book the booze cruise instead.
4. When they tried it, did it work?
If the strategies and tactics that the speaker is espousing don’t actually work (and I mean in the REAL world) then they may do more harm than good. Your people will waste hundreds of hours and gawd-knows how much money. Professional speakers have the expertise to back up their eloquence. They can point to actual examples where their recommendations have been effective. And if they can’t, dump the DJ and bring on the rock band.
5. If it worked, how much was it worth?
Did you increase sales? Boost profits? Cut costs? Reduce turnover? Capture new customers? Leapfrog the competition? This is where you justify the “lavish” meeting at the “posh” resort to the accountants and the press. An effective speaker will follow through with the client long after the program (yes, even after a year or two) to monitize their impact.
Case in point:
Philips Medical was spending nearly $6M over 4½ days to exhibit at their industry’s biggest trade show. Twenty-six tractor-trailers full of fixtures and equipment filled a 10,000 sq/ft booth in McCormick Place. It would be staffed by 136 mostly technical personnel. At the pre-show briefing they invited me to present a three-hour custom training session on “Guerrilla Trade Show Selling.”
The seminar was well received. Ratings in the low fours. But ninety days later we looked at the numbers. Participants had applied their new skills to good affect. Qualified leads were up 144% over the previous year, and they had already closed more than $8M worth of new business. Today this training is required for every employee who might represent Philips at a trade show anywhere in the world.
If you take the time, and build this kind of deep evaluation into every project you do, you’ll never have difficulty justifying the cost of your meeting, or the speakers you hire to present at them. If you still have to cut costs, dump the golf.