The speech has long been booked and it is getting close to the event date. The speaker is probably getting anxious to make sure all the details that will make or break the speech will be handled.
Sometimes the location permits the VSA to attend the event and then you can make sure the physical logistics happen as they should. More often than not, unfortunately, you will not be there physically, so you have to do everything you can to prepare the speaker and the meeting planner for the event from a distance.
The VSAs Role in the Process
1. Review the contract to make sure it is signed, and the deposit received. Anything the speaker was able to negotiate (leave behinds, exhibit space, special hotel requests, etc.) should be detailed in the contract and added to your Event Detail form for this specific event.
2. Create a hard copy and/or electronic file to keep everything related to this event in one place.
3. Add the client to the database, if this is a new client, or update any information for an existing client.
4. Make sure all checklists are completed to maximize chances of success and that nothing will be forgotten.
5. Set travel arrangements so the speaker will get to the speech fresh and ready to go.
6. Coordinate with the meeting planner to meet the speaker’s audio/visual, handouts, stage set up, meeting room set up and technology needs.
7. Send with the speaker (in hard copy or email) these things all together and as a reminder a day or two before the speaker will be leaving for the event:
a. Travel itinerary – including all flight information and hotel address and phone number
b. Specific information on ground transportation to hotel/event location
c. Meeting planner’s cell phone number
d. Date/Time of speech
e. Introduction for the speaker
f. Whether any PowerPoint was sent in advance to be loaded on a computer running all the presentations in the room (the speaker should take the presentation on a Flash drive in any case as a back up.
g. Location of green room or reception before speech
h. Session host name and contact if possible
i. List of people to meet/network with who will be at the event
j. List of ways to leverage marketing opportunities at this event – video testimonials, podcast interviews, etc.
8. Make sure all the speaker’s materials, such as products, books and handouts get to the speaking location. Create shipping labels to be ready when needed – to return books and products and place in the boxes with the products. Also create labels to send thank you gifts after the speech.
9. Consider a welcome basket for the speaker
10. After the event:
a. Send a thank you gift to the meeting planner
b. Follow up with others as promised by the speaker
c. Post testimonials or other video from the event on the speaker’s website
Meeting Room Set Up
It is also important for the meeting planner to let the speaker know if a room will be set up in a particular way, and preferably have an agreement on this as part of the contract. The speaker may be able to elect the style of room and other logistical items, but due to the somewhat restricted budgets for meetings, there may be fewer choices than the speaker might like. But here are some of the choices a speaker may wish to make.
Theatre Style – for keynotes
Table Rounds – for when food is available or meals will be served (breakfast, lunch, dinner meetings)
Classroom Style – for teaching – seats face forward and there are tables for writing on handouts
Chevron Style – similar to classroom but seats are at an angle behind tables for writing
U-Shape – for smaller meetings or trainings
Boardroom Style – generally for meetings of 8 to 20 in an executive setting
Sometimes you can ask for special lighting, such as dimming or a spot, and other times you can’t. If you need special lighting for any reason, be sure and make that clear ahead so they can accommodate that request. This is especially important if the presentation is being videotaped.
Sound is very important to a speaker, which seems obvious, but sometimes microphones are too loud or too quiet or make extra noise, so it is important to request the right microphone and test it ahead of time. Veteran speakers will show up at least 30 minutes before the speech for a sound check with the AV people. The meeting planner will usually check in at the same time to make sure the speaker has everything he or she needs.
Podium and Stage Height
The amount of room for the speaker to walk around can be very important to some speakers and the podium height, if there is one, is also something that should be adjusted before the speaker comes out. Some speakers request a small table for water and their notes. This should be included in the contract and double-checked beforehand with the session hosts.
Other Items the VSA Can Handle If Onsite
If the VSA will be at the event, here are some other things that will really help the speaker. If you will not be attending, you can still make some phone calls and see that these things are taken care of.
Encouraging People to Sit Up Front
To the extent possible, you’d like to encourage people to sit up front in the room. Sometimes you can limit the seating in back or reserve it until the last minute so people have no choice but to go toward the front. If you can diplomatically remind the session host to ask people to move to the front, it is more likely to get done.
If the VSA is on hand the VSA can handle the timing cards, but often the meeting has someone just to do this. Timing cards alert the speaker how much time he or she has left to speak. The first one is generally 30 minutes, and then 10 and 5 minutes and 1 minute if needed. The speaker (or VSA) should ask if a volunteer will be handling this on site.
If there is a PowerPoint presentation or even just a flip chart, you want to make sure that everyone in the audience will be able to see it. You will also want to have handouts out on the tables so that you don’t have to interrupt the speaker in handing them out.
Even if the speaker is making the presentation from his or her own laptop, it is a good idea to put the presentation on a flash drive to send with the speaker as back up in case something happens to the computer or another computer must be used for the presentation.
Right After the Speech
Many people will want to talk to the speaker right after the speech and it will be hard for the speaker to collect all the cards and make notes on who will be important to connect with later.
If the speaker is new, the VSA can help role play/brainstorm the process of what it will be like right after the speech. It is important for the speaker to get the business cards of new “fans” and to debrief next steps with the VSA as soon as possible afterwards.
Follow Up Back at the Office
After the applause dies down and the speaker returns home, it is very important that the speaker thank the host organization and others for their efforts in making the event such a success. This allows the speaker another contact and a way to promote future business.
There are three things that an VSA can do to be involved in the follow up.
1. Send the thank you gift to the meeting planner. Usually a thank you gift has already been purchased in advance. Some speakers will send their book, other speakers will include a gift like a pen or something that goes on a desk like a paperweight. Flowers or food like cookies, candy or brownies would also be appropriate. So the key, once again, is to ask the speaker what they want to do for thank you gifts and that the gift is ready to send the day of or the day after the speech.
A caveat: you do want to be sure the meeting planner can accept gifts. If the meeting planner is a government contractor, there are probably regulations against gift giving. For instance, pharmaceutical firms are now not able to give thank you gifts to doctors.
It is probably easiest to keep these gifts at the VSAs office, so the VSA just has to put them in a box, add a hand-written note, and address it to the meeting planner. Make the note from both the VSA and the speaker, because the VSA has probably worked with the host organization as well.
Here is some possible language for the thank you note: “It was such a pleasure to work with you. I heard such wonderful things about the event and I hope that you enjoyed it as well. Thank you so much for the opportunity to speak. I particularly enjoyed….” Any kind of personal thought about the interactions that you’ve had with that person is great.
2. Send anything that the speaker has promised. Speakers love to get contact information from the attendees. So they will say if you give me your business card or if you sign up on our website, you’ll get a special report or audio download. Usually that’s handled automatically through an autoresponder, but make sure and check after the speech if the speaker made any extra promises to the audience that you need to follow up on.
Sometimes after the speech a speaker will get business cards from people who will say “Here’s my card, we loved you, you would be perfect for our group.” Those are very important for the speaker to get to the VSA immediately, usually by the speaker going to the business center and faxing them over to the VSA so they get in the database and there is immediate follow up.
3. Decide what to provide to general attendees that will keep them interested and connected with the speaker and follow through. Are there any kind of touch points that came from the attendees? For instance, is there a topic that came up during the event that the speaker can blog about after he or she returns? This would be a great blog topic, “Here’s the number one question that we got talking in the hallways that I want to answer now.” That will stimulate ongoing contact with the audience.
And don’t forget if there was a video or audio recording of the event or testimonials from the event you will want to get that recording and process it – edit it or get it up on the speaker’s web site.
If any of the speaker’s products were sold at the event, you will also want to make sure that any product not sold was returned. You also want to make sure that if the travel expenses were to be reimbursed that you submit them to the host organization and track until payment is made. Some speakers want to keep their own books, but you need to ask the speaker if he or she needs any help with the travel expenses, invoicing or if you need to track those payments, or send any kind of reminder e-mails.