What to do when your speaker’s talk doesn’t go as planned


No votes yet

What to do when your speaker’s talk doesn’t go as planned

We thought we’d done our research. We watched the demo video and testimonials, we had a riveting video chat with the speaker. We thoroughly read the speaker application. We were...set.

But then a week before our event something happened.

We sent the speaker an email, but they didn’t reply back. A few days passed, we sent another email.

We all got a little worried. Maybe they were on a holiday?

Alarm bells were ringing, but we were still fairly certain we’d made the right choice.

We called the speaker up, and they assured us that things were moving along and they were eager to speak at our event.

But the Friday before the event, we realized things were not going to work out as planned. We contacted our backup speaker. He said he could potentially speak at the event, but when the first speaker finally contacted us enthusiastically, we decided it would indeed be a go.

Wrong choice. The content was thin and the event met neither our nor the audience’s expectations.

Depressing? Quite. But we learned the lessons and we’d like to share the takeaways.

Here is what we learned:

  • Put your audience's’ needs at the forefront.
    Only offer them high quality content, even if this means cancelling the speaker or bringing in a backup who has a different topic. 
    Every single speaker can improve or severely hurt your brand as an organizer, regardless how much they paid (or didn’t pay) to attend your event.
  • Be diligent about your vetting process. 
    Don’t assume that just because a speaker has a large social media following their content will be right for your audience. 
    It is better to have a speaker with a smaller audience but an impactful message than one with a large audience who is not the right fit.  
  • Make sure you run through the presentation one week in advance.
    If the speaker cannot provide this for you, or they miss the deadline, bring in your backup speaker without hesitation.
  • Always set very clear rules and guidelines 
    Especially about how much promotion/self-promotion is allowed. You are providing them a stage, not a billboard. 
  • End the event, get them off stage.
    The speaker went past the scheduled time frame, and by the time we got to the Q+A we were already running well over the schedule. We sped the session along as fast as we could, answered one of the most preeminent questions from the audience, and closed the session down.
  • Regardless of the event’s fee, everyone’s time is valuable. 
    If you waste it with a bad speaker, even a free event can trigger a negative backlash.
    Send out an apology or at least an acknowledgment. 
    We ended up sending out a personal message to all of the people who left our event early. We explained what happened, and offered a sincerely humble apology. Leaving those audience members thinking that we thought the quality was fine would have assured they never attended another one of our sessions.

Have you had this happen to you before? What advice would you offer us and other event organizer about on how to avoid bringing the wrong speaker on stage?


No votes yet