A snapshot into the lives of the people who hire us
Questions I wish you would ask
In my world, few speakers ask the
questions that will, in the end, make
their gigs successful. In my world,
dealing with speakers is, strangely,
like working with hotels where “rates,
dates and space—you can only have
two” has been applicable for decades.
For many speakers, it is about the rates
and dates and location. Rarely am I
asked in-depth questions; rarely are the
answers more than marketing statements.
To determine if the subject about which
you speak and the style of your presentation is appropriate, here are the questions I wish you would ask me. As a
bonus, I’ve included the follow-up questions and/or statements you might make.
In my world, you would ask or say:
1. Tell me the goals and objectives of
the overall meeting or conference.
Follow-up: How do those goals and
objectives fit into the organization’s
mission? Are there any changes
about which I should know?
2. Tell me about the audience. Will it
include (fill in the blank): Sales people?
Members? Members with different
experiences in your industry? Exhibitors? Veteran members as well as new
members, or new members of the profession or new company employees?
Follow-up: What is the percentage of
men? Women? What is the age range?
Will there be spouses, partners or
guests? What is their background?
3. What else is on the meeting or
Follow-up: What happens immediately before and after the program at
which you are inviting me to speak?
What happens in that session in
addition to what you are asking me
to do? Will people have just eaten or
be hungry before lunch?
4. How much time is allotted to my
part of the program, especially if
I am speaking during a meal?
Follow-up: When are the other
networking opportunities for those
in attendance? What is on the
agenda before? How has the
audience, at a similar conference
you’ve held, reacted to luncheon
(or dinner) speakers?
5. How does your audience react to an
Follow-up: Please give me examples
of sessions at which interaction
occurred and how it was done. If
I’m being asked to speak over a
meal: How easy is it to gain the
attention of the group for discussion
and then bring it back? How can we
work together to structure the meal
so that eating, my presentation and
group interaction can thrive, individually and together?
6. Are there any sensitivities in your
group that, when addressed, can
cause confusion or problems?
Follow-up: Be aware that even some
self-deprecating humor can fall flat
because of certain issues or sensitivities within an audience. Listen to
what is said and ask follow-up
questions so that you use humor
and examples appropriately.
7. How do you measure success for
Follow-up: Ask how this organization measures its ROI and how
individuals will measure their personal ROI for your presentation.
In my world, this Chinese proverb
makes the most sense: “One who asks a
question is a fool for five minutes; one
who does not ask a question remains a
Joan L. Eisenstodt, chief strategist of
Eisenstodt Assocs., LLC, a Washington,
DC-based meetings and hospitality
industry consultancy, has been active
in the meetings industry for 30+
years. She is a past recipient of the
NSA Planner Partner award and an
inductee into the CIC Hall of Leaders.
Contact Joan at firstname.lastname@example.org.