You’ve no doubt heard the old cliché about the love-hate relationship between speakers and conference managers. They need each other, yet they drive each other crazy like Lucy and Ricky Ricardo. Between constant email exchanges and frantic phone calls, it’s easy to forget that speakers and conference staff share the same goal of creating a great event. Fortunately, technology can restore the love to the speaker-manager bond. New online content management applications make it easier than ever for event managers to create and oversee a smooth speaker-management process.
With a few simple best practices, managing your speakers can go from a major pain in the you-know-what to one of the easiest items on your (extensive) to-do list.
Everyone on your team should understand their role in the speaker-management process, whether that’s grading abstracts and evaluating potential speakers or copy-editing bios for your website. Making sure your internal process runs smoothly will prevent delays that further compress the demands on speakers.
If you’re using a content management platform, you can assign members of your team to different roles. This controls their access to content and helps them stay on top of their immediate action items. That way, you can easily identify which team members you need to follow-up with in order to keep the process moving.
Sending out reminders is a necessary part of speaker management. As much as you hope your speakers will remember their deadlines, sometimes they need some gentle prodding! Rather than cluttering your to-do list with your own reminders, use systems that let you automate those prompts to keep your speakers on task.
Some automation systems let you schedule reminders by deadline (for example, reminding every speaker who has not submitted their bio to do so a week before the deadline closes) or periodically (such as once a week to every person who has not submitted their bio). These systems can also automatically update public-facing content as speakers submit their latest data, ensuring that your event website constantly displays the latest information for your attendees. You’ll save your valuable time, too, when you don’t have to double-check every place that content lives to ensure everything is up to date.
At the end of the day, even the best-laid plans can go awry. If you can anticipate some amount of last-minute shuffling, you’ll be better prepared to handle late content while maintaining relationships with your speakers. On the flip side, always be as appreciative as you can for speakers who submit their materials on time—they are just as busy as you!
Once you’ve notified the speaker that his or her abstract has been accepted, it’s time to gather a more complete profile and session data. With some online event-management systems, speakers can access their sessions and supply new or updated information. They can edit session details, review the audio-visual setup, upload head shots, make requests, and add complementary resources, such as slide decks, PDFs and videos. With programmed reporting features on some systems, those requests can trigger alerts that go automatically to members of your team, track owners, or both.
Speakers have enough to worry about with just their presentations. Ease the pressure on them by providing freshly updated information about the conference. Document and share on-site logistical details in pre-event briefing packets. With an event content management system, speakers can consult the website for facts on session time slot, room location and number of registered attendees. You can also provide them with real-time information about your organization’s mission, conference goals, program content and attendee demographics. Supplying this information not only puts their minds to rest, but it makes your job easier by minimizing the need to respond to email requests for routine information.
Your speakers are the primary reason that people come to your event. Yes, they need to take responsibility for providing all their pre-conference materials on time. But once they’ve held up their end of the bargain, it’s time to show them appreciation for their efforts. Acknowledge their contributions and respect their time. Follow through on your commitments for tickets, meals, lodging and transportation. But also consider organizing special events for speakers, such as pre-conference meetups and networking sessions. Make them feel special and appreciated before, during and after the conference. They’ll likely return the favor to you with five-star performances and stellar post-conference reviews.
So, forget the outmoded tropes about speaker-manager conflicts. It’s time to break out of that tired storyline. By taking the time to organize your internal team, automating as many processes as possible, treating your speakers with respect and appreciation, and leaving time in your schedule to be flexible with late-arriving content, you can make managing your speakers a more fulfilling part of organizing your event.
With the right technology and some good old-fashioned common sense, you can simplify manual tasks and focus on working productively with your speakers to help make their presentations—and your event—a smash hit.
Content drives events 2/3rds of attendees register only after seeing event content, and content is how we share our messaging and achieve that sky-high ROI.
Our guide Advanced Content Strategy for Conference Planners shares the specific approaches used by top event content strategists for events large and small to strategically maximize the impact of their event content.
Full of practical advice, it will help you set your events apart from the pack.