Hints & Tips

THINGS YOU MUST DO –

1. Do, decide on the purpose of your event and set the objectives you wish to achieve. This will enable you to monitor your progress and to assess your success at the event post-mortem.

2. Do, decide well in advance how many guests you wish to invite, how they will be wined, dined and entertained. Will your event be casual or formal? If your event is to be mixed company in the evening, formal is usually best as women like an excuse to get dressed up and will insist their partners do also.

3. Do, establish a realistic budget to achieve your aims and objectives. For a recognised speaker you should reckon on spending at least £5,000.

4. Do, consider the above and choose your speaker carefully. If the event is only to be attended by your colleagues, ensure that your chosen speaker is someone they will like. Do not allow your Managing Director to choose an intellectual or political speaker who appeals to senior management, when most of the audience would prefer a popular comedian. Ask your chosen agency to submit a list of suggested names which fit your budget. Discuss these with your colleagues.

5. If the purpose of the event is to attract existing or potential clients so that you can promote your company to them before, during or after the meal. Then you must take extra care over whom you choose to speak and will certainly have to establish a more generous budget. Wealthy business people, like your clients, are hardly likely to fall over themselves to attend an event where the speaker is someone they have never heard of. If you intend to use the speaker’s name on invitations to attract your best customers, you will need to use an impressive name and will need the budget to achieve this.

6. Do, be realistic about who you can obtain within your budget. Be prepared to pay between £5,000 and £20,000, depending on if you want a fairly well known speechmaker, or a real heavyweight.

7. If you are organising a ‘fund-raiser’ or ‘benefit’ for some worthwhile cause or charity, do not be frightened to charge a good price for the tickets so that you can afford a decent speaker, and hopefully make a reason able profit on the event. Speakers are generally not interested in speaking for a ‘nominal sum, or expenses’ just to help you raise money, unless they are also personally involved with the same cause. Recruit an enthusiastic Guest Committee, who should each commit to selling at least 10 tickets each. This is a reasonable number. Don’t let anyone bite off more than they can chew. Being on your committee should be regarded as a privilege rather than a chore. Sometimes committee members who sell 9 tickets, get one free for themselves. This will depend on your budget. If you need to sell 80 tickets, you’ll need an enthusiastic committee of at least 8. Your Guest Committee should increase pro-rata. Do not try to sell all the tickets yourself. Remember, once you have committed to booking a particular speaker you cannot cancel him or her because you have not sold enough tickets. This is where the importance of a watertight contract comes in and the importance of working with a good agency such as ourselves, who will provide you with Event Insurance and even a guarantee. Should your chosen speaker break his leg the day before your event, Useful Speakers will find you an acceptable replacement from their vast number of contacts at no extra cost.

8. Do, be prepared to be flexible. Your first choice of speaker may be unavailable or may simply not be interested in appearing at your event.

9. Do, prepare a comprehensive brief for your chosen speaker to avoid any confusion over the type of speech he/she is required to deliver. Whoever you choose should be carefully briefed on the personalities within the company and asked to include some mention of these names in their speech. This is always very popular, but only appropriate when the numbers of the audience are familiar with each other or are all involved in the same industry. ‘In-Jokes ‘ are a waste of time unless 100% of the audience will appreciate them.

THINGS YOU SHOULD NOT DO –

1. Do not leave things until the last minute. The earlier you begin making plans the more choice you will have and the cheaper it is likely to be. The most popular speakers are booked months (sometimes years) in advance. From the list of suggestions we provide establish your choices in order of priority, this way you are more likely to obtain your first or second choice. We will advise you on this.

2. Do not choose a date and book a venue if you want a specific speaker or comedian before checking on his or her availability. You must be prepared to be flexible. Find out some dates on which your chosen speaker is available, THEN book everything else around a mutually convenient date.

3. Do not choose a cheap speaker just because someone else says they have heard they are very good. Remember, if an unknown speaker whom you’ve recommended “fails”, it will also be regarded as YOUR failure. On the other hand, if a well-know professional speaker has an “off-night” this will be regarded as his failure, and not yours.

4. Do not choose a speaker just because they appear to be cheap. Work on the basis, that if a speaker is cheap, there is probably a good reason for it!

5. Do not assume that your chosen speaker will be squeaky-clean and will not deliver the odd blue joke, as they almost always do. Make sure a ‘no abusive language’ clause is the contract if you particularly don’t want your guests to hear anything that could be potentially offensive.

6. Do not expect to ask your chosen speaker to drop-in all sorts of ‘names’ and ‘in-jokes’ at the last minute. As they will not do it. If you need this type of speaker, ask your agency to suggest a professional script-writer who will write a tailored speech. Also, ask the speaker how he/she likes to be introduced. He/she may even have a little ‘intro’ already written. Get someone familiar with public speaking to give them a good build-up. This is very important for the speaker’s ego, and for the enjoyment of the audience.

Also, do not overlook the importance of an ‘Outro’. This requires someone (probably the same person who did the ‘intro’) standing at the end of the speech to ‘lead’ the applause and to thank the speaker for coming etc. To then invite the audience to retire to the bar (or whatever) and to generally bring the proceedings to a proper close. There is nothing worse than a stony silence after applause for the speaker has ended, when the audience is wondering what to do next.

7. Do not assume that the audience will know how to behave at all times, unless you let them know. A good Master of Ceremonies should inform your guests at every convenient break what will happen next, and what the audience should be doing.

8. If your event is taking place over dinner do not allow any food or drink service to take place during the speeches. Waiters or waitresses moving around the room will distract the speaker and the audience. There is nothing worse than the rattle of coffee cups and spoons during a speech.

9. Do not expect the audience to eat and drink throughout the lunch or dinner, then to sit through the speeches without a break to visit the toilet, or to smoke a cigarette. Ensure that the audience is given at least a 15 minute “comfort” break before the speeches, then return to the table relaxed and with a drink in hand. If you do not wish the audience to leave the room to smoke during the speeches (which we suggest) you must tell them beforehand to remain seated.

10. Do not rely on anyone else to arrange the speaker for you unless they are professional and can offer you a proper contract. Especially, do not rely on a friend or colleague who maintain that they know a “big star” who will speak at your event as a “favour”. This has never been known to work. Especially if the speaker is offered a well paid contract on the same day as your unpaid job. Guess which job will be cancelled?

11. Do not organise a complicated and costly event without taking out some form of event insurance. This is not expensive and provides great peace of mind. Useful Speakers can arrange this for you at a very little cost.

12. Do not allow your event to overrun, as this may result in your speaker addressing an audience which is half asleep, or drunk. It is most important to start on time. Do not allow latecomers to delay your start. Stick to your published timings. Make sure the food is served on time and that the speeches start and finish on time. Do not allow speakers to exceed their allotted time or the audience will become bored. No speech should ever be longer than 30-40 minutes.

13. Do not assume that everything will run smoothly. Work on the basis that anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. In this case, when a problem occurs you will be prepared for it. If nothing does go wrong, this will give you an even greater sense of achievement. But remember, if everything seems to be running too smoothly, you have probably overlooked something!

14. Finally, do not offer your chosen speaker drinks or champagne before the speech. Only offer water. Speakers are sometimes quite nervous and anxious to please their hosts and will drink alcohol without thinking. The consequences of a speaker “worse for drink” are too awful to contemplate.