What gets you hired and rehired—
and what doesn’t? Five “bookers”
explain their side of the story
By ANNETTE DUBROUILLET
So you think you know what a meeting planner wants?
What they expect—and what you think they need—
are often two entirely different trains of thought. For
example, do you create a professionally produced
DVD or is streaming video the surest way to get
booked? Are stacks of testimonial letters the speaker deal-breaker
or do you need to solicit one perfect reference from a client in the
same industry? And what about post-presentation efforts—are
super-evaluations a guarantee of a return booking? Or maybe
you’re the type that believes if you send a thank you gift, you’ve
officially cemented an ongoing relationship?
We all know meeting planners expect fantastic presentations,
but what are the other pieces of the booking puzzle that get us
hired and rehired? In this issue of Speaker, five meeting planners,
all with 10-plus years experience hiring speakers, facilitators and
trainers, explain what gets you the gig and what quickly eliminates
you from the picture.
To understand the hiring process, it’s important to look at several
perspectives of meeting planners, including what they want before
they hire, what they expect before and what follow-up they expect
after the meeting.
Knowing that a speaker can speak is of course foremost in the
minds of meeting planners, but how they confirm that ability can
vary. Here are the four most important ways for a meeting planner
to know your presentation skills, in no particular order.
1. Have a DVD or video of an entire presentation that lasts at
least 20 minutes. “One of the things that really makes me
scratch my head is when someone tells me they don’t have a
DVD of a full-length presentation. If they’ve never been taped,
what does that say about them as a speaker?” says Emily
Mathews, CMP, director of meetings and member services for
the Texas Self-Storage Association.
2. Have other speakers recommend you to meeting planners.
Jeff Findley, director of training for Merry Maids, says, “I often
ask other speakers who have been well-received by Merry
Maids for their recommendations for speakers. They know
what I like and can usually tell me others who can deliver the
same.” Recommendations from within the company also are
3. Ask questions about the meeting. Joan L. Eisenstodt, president of Eisenstodt Associates and the 2006 NSA Meeting Partner of the Year, says, “If a speaker asks good questions about
the group, what the goals and objectives of the meeting or
event are, how that differs from other meetings we’ve done
and the audience demographics, it says that the person will
more likely customize what is being delivered versus a standard speech with a ‘fill in the blank.’ ”
4. Have the meeting planner see you in person if at all possible.
“I tend to lean toward speakers I have seen in other venues,”
says Melody Bohrer, vice president of education and development for ERA Real Estate. Eisenstodt agrees, “I would prefer
going to see the speaker. There’s nothing like a site visit, the same
as to a hotel or convention center to really, well, ‘kick the tires.’ ”
There is also a list of what is not as effective at this stage of hiring:
DVDs that only include snippets of a speaker. “Anyone can put
together a good promotional video if they have the right production company. I don’t put a lot of trust in those anymore,” Findley says. “A series of tiny little clips doesn’t do it,” Mathews concurs.
Testimonial letters that aren’t relevant to the industry or the
company. “Testimonials are worthless to me unless it is a recommendation from one of our brokers or agents,” Bohrer explains.
Lack of direct contact with the prospective client. “If I can’t
get in touch with a speaker, only with the bureau, I’m not interested,” Findley says.