A number of key event planning tasks rely on a finalized program: marketing of the event, food and beverage planning, audio visual requirements, etc. Because of this, it is important to finalize the program as early on in the planning process as possible. The biggest component of finalizing a program generally revolves around speakers. How many speakers? Who are they? Where are they coming from?
With events that we manage, we work with a planning committee made up of association members to confirm speaking topics and speakers to fill those slots. The committee works as the content experts, whereas we, the event planners, assist with the logistics. When working with a committee that is generally comprised of association member volunteers, it is important to make the best use of their valuable time and have processes in place to ensure timely decision making and completion of tasks.
Evaluating a Short List of Potential Speakers
I recently worked with a planning committee on a national association conference that had 12 speaking slots and a list of 35 potential speakers. It would not have been efficient to have the entire committee review all 35 speakers and determine which ones were best suited to each of the 12 slots. Instead, we divided and conquered. The planning committee paired off and each took two or three of the speaking topics to focus on. The division was based on committee members’ areas of expertise and location. The pairs then came to the next meeting prepared with suggestions for each of their assigned slots. A short discussion revolved around each slot and speakers were confirmed.
We can use the example above to develop some golden rules when it comes to finalizing speakers and completing your program.
Golden Rule #1: Let the Planning Committee Focus on Speaker Content
As mentioned above, the members of the planning committee are the content experts and should be the ones making suggestions for speaking topics. They are better informed as to what is currently happening in their field/industry and will have a better idea of what the delegates would be interested in learning.
Golden Rule #2: Divide and Conquer the Speaker Short List
Too many voices around the table can lead to inefficiency. Assign specific topics to members of the planning committee based on their backgrounds and levels of expertise. Allow each member to research their assigned topic and report back to the committee with their top suggestion(s) for a speaker on that topic.
Golden Rule #3: Use Industry Connections to Find Potential Speakers
Members of the planning committee are often still working in the field/industry specific to the conference and each member has their own set of connections. Their networks can be a huge resource for an event as it can be easier to get in touch with potential speakers and you won’t necessarily have to start from square one when researching potential speakers.
Golden Rule #4: Set Speaker Selection and Confirmation Deadlines
Members of the planning committee are volunteering their time so it is important to set deadlines to ensure that things stay on schedule. Committee meetings should be dedicated to making decisions rather than too much discussion, so it is important to remind members to do their research before the meeting and come prepared with suggestions.
By making the most of your planning committee’s time and resources you will ensure that decisions are made efficiently and on time. This will allow the rest of your event planning tasks to follow in a timely