You are two weeks out from an association event: your program is set, all vendors have been contracted, the venue details have been organized and now it is time to reconfirm, reconfirm, reconfirm! Arguably, the most important deliverable at an association meeting or conference is the educational content. So, it is extremely important that your speakers are prepared and will deliver on what has been asked of them. This article is meant to cover the important details that an association event manager should cover in final speaker confirmations. For more information on speaker expectations, read my colleague’s blog article: Speaker Expectations – Ensuring They Deliver on Your Theme.
When to Confirm?
Two weeks before an association event is a good rule of thumb to send out final speaker confirmation emails. This is early enough that speakers can make changes to their plans if something is outlined differently in the confirmation email, but not so early that speakers will neglect to read it. With seasoned speakers, this is likely the timeframe when an event will be on their radar.
What to Confirm?
There are several details to include in a speaker confirmation email that will be specific to the association event. The following list summarizes a general list that should be applicable regardless of the event’s focus.
Remind the speaker where the associationconference is being held and which room their presentation will take place. Be as specific as possible with the room, for example which floor of the hotel or convention centre the room is on, in order to avoid any day of confusion.
Presentation Date and Time
This detail should already be set in stone with all speakers, but you would be surprised how many people don’t pay attention to the small details until the last minute. Best to reiterate the date and time and let the speaker know how early they should arrive before their presentation. This will allow for much cooler nerves on the day of, as nothing induces panic more than a speaker missing in action!
Let speakers know what audiovisual (AV) equipment is being provided to them for their presentation. What kinds of microphones are available? Are they to use their own laptop? Their own slide advancer? Are they provided? Is there a comfort monitor that shows their notes? Can they play videos with sound? Not all speakers are necessarily experienced, so letting them know what to expect when they arrive onsite will allow them to feel more prepared.
Many speakers prefer to test their presentation before they deliver it live to an audience. Let speakers know if there is an opportunity for them to test their presentation in the meeting room using the AV equipment in place. It is a good idea to have an AV technician onsite during these testing times to help troubleshoot any technical issues so keep that in mind when planning these testing opportunities.
In a number of cases, the event manager will book accommodation for speakers. If this is the case, send the speakers their check-in/check-out dates and their confirmation numbers. Remind them what the billing procedures are so that there are no surprises onsite. Even if you were not the one to book the rooms for the speakers, you can find this information in a pickup report received from the hotel. It is better to reconfirm accommodation dates ahead of time than have a speaker show up on the wrong day and be stuck with the bill.
Arriving at your association meeting or conference should be easy for speakers, so provide them with transportation options in advance. Whether by taxi, train, shuttle or private car, remind speakers how they can get to the event venue and what is reimbursable as part of their speaker agreement. For tips on what to include in a speaker agreement, read my previous blog: Speaker Agreements – The Key to a Great Association Event.
This piece is more out of respect for the speaker than it is in ensuring your event runs smoothly. Give speakers a heads up as to what the expected dress code is so that they are not embarrassed on the day of the event. If the dress code is business formal and a speaker shows up in jeans and a polo, it can shake their confidence resulting in a less-than-stellar performance.
Allow speakers to get the most out of their participation at an association event by reminding them of other components of the event that they are invited to beyond their presentation. This is a great way to have speakers network with other delegates and can be perceived as an added bonus to speakers for their commitment.
Up until this point, speakers have likely communicated with you using email and your office number. Provide them with a cellphone number to ensure that they can get a hold of you once onsite at the event.
Having a speaker feel well prepared to deliver a presentation has two primary benefits. One, it reflects well on you as an association event manager and increases the likelihood of that speaker wanting to work with you again in the future. And two, it ensures that the focus of the presentation is on the educational content and not the logistical details that can sometimes cause a distraction. Delegates expect a level of professionalism for their registration dollars and will generally not tolerate an unprepared speaker. By working closely with the speaker throughout the planning process and reiterating details in the final two weeks, you are setting them up for success.