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Tips to Improve Your Speaker Communications

I work on a wide variety of conferences each year, some for my clients and others as an industry volunteer. Some of these conferences have a handful of presenters; while other events, such as academic conferences, may have hundreds.

Regardless of the number, good communication with your speakers is critical. Here are some key areas to be included:

Speaker Confirmation Details

Will a fee or honorarium be paid? Many events have both paid and unpaid speakers on the schedule so make sure this is clearly spelled out so there is no confusion.

Who will pay for travel expenses? If the organization is covering this for the speaker, who will make the reservation and how will travel expenses be handled? If you need the speaker to use a designated travel agency, spell it out. Be sure to cover air, ground transportation, meals while traveling, etc.

Will the speaker need a hotel room? Is this being covered by the organization? Who will make the reservation? If the speaker is required to make his or her own reservation, don't forget to provide the cutoff date and hotel information.

Does the speaker need to register? This may sound unusual but at many conferences presenters are asked to register and pay for the conference. Some events have a special reduced rate for speakers. At others, the registration fee is waived but the organizers want the speaker to register to collect additional information or have up to date data.

Program Related Details

What is the date and time of their presentation? What is the format? Are there other panelists? How long do they have to speak?

If the schedule is not firm yet, when will it be? Be sure to send the final completed schedule to all your speakers so they can see the overall flow of the event, how their session relates to the rest of the program, etc.

When will you need head shot, bio, etc. for program?

When are the presentation or handout materials needed? Be sure to spell out the process completely, i.e. presentation will be preload on computer in session room or handouts uploaded to website. How will last minute changes to presentation be handled? Many presenters make changes right up to the time they present.

Will the presenter bring his or her own computer? If this would cause timing issues let them know.

Has the speaker given permission to record the session?

Staying in Touch

Often many months pass from the time a speaker is invited to speak till the conference takes place. Be sure to stay in touch and let your speakers know of any changes to the schedule. It is also a good practice to keep your speakers informed of your registration numbers. Is the event drawing more or fewer attendees than expected? It is a good practice to let your speakers know in advance.

You'll also want to remind your speakers of the various deadlines. Everyone is busy so a reminder that presentations are due in two weeks is much appreciated. Likewise, if your speakers are responsible to make their own hotel reservations, give them a heads up that the cut off date is approaching. I like to recap all upcoming deadlines with every communication.

Many of your speakers will read your email on their phone rather than on a computer. Make it easy for them by including the information in your email not just as an attachment. I like to send a final email one to two days before the conference so that it will be easy to access on their phone if they are on the road.

At the Event

Be sure to let your speakers know where to go when they arrive. Is there a special speaker ready room or registration area? Who should they notify that they have arrived? I ask speakers to check in with me or my staff as soon as they arrive but at least an hour before their presentation.

We recently had a speaker who planned to fly in the morning of his talk. No one had seen him all was 45 minutes before his talk, and numerous calls to his cell phone were not answered. We were in the process of asking a staff person to lead his session when he showed up. He had flown in the night before and stayed at the airport hotel. His cell phone was off because he was in the hotel lobby preparing for his talk!

Don't forget to send letters of appreciation to the speakers after your event. Feedback on their presentation or copies of the evaluations should also be provided.

Good luck. I hope you can use some of these suggestions at your next event.

Shelley E. Griffin, CMM, is the founder and president of Griffin Conference Group, which provides comprehensive meeting planning services. She is a respected industry leader who has over twenty years of experience.  For more helpful tips see her web site at