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Preparing and taking care of your speakers.

How do you make sure your meeting speakers give you the kind of presentation your members need and expect?

For Marilyn Monroe, CAE, president of the Texas Society of Association Executives, Austin, it's not that difficult. Good speaker selection, thorough communication, and individualized attention make the difference.

TSAE, based in Austin, conducts seven meetings a year, all in Texas. Monroe herself is the most recent winner of the National Speakers Association's "Meeting Planner of the Year" award.

Speaker selection

For TSAE, the right speaker mix is the product of good topic selection by member committees, coupled with good speaker selection by her three-person conventions, seminars, and exhibits staff.

"Over the years, we've built a good reputation with professional speakers," says Marilyn Monroe. One reason may be TSAE's data base, which was significantly upgraded a year ago. It serves as a ready reference on the type of speaker, what type of programs he or she is best suited for--seminar, lunch, opening address; speaker evaluations; and if relevant, the name of the TSAE member who proposed the speaker.

Videotapes of professional speakers are essential. Monroe says when about 20 of them have accumulated, she and her meeting planner block out three or four hours to view them, ranking the speakers and adding their own comments to the data base entry.


The linchpin for TSAE's success with speakers is good speaker communication--all the way through.

If there is one common mistake in the way some associations prepare speakers, Monroe says, it's the mistake of not giving speakers enough information on the group that will be attending. "They need to really understand who the association is, how many people they're likely to be addressing--and the mix. Today they need to be sensitive to the number of women and sensitive to women's issues as well."

In addition, she says they verify the speaker's specifications for room setup and audiovisual equipment at more than one checkpoint. The final checkpoint occurs when the speaker is sent a sheet from TSAE's actual meeting specifications for his or her presentation.

Personalized attention

One technique TSAE uses is to personalize attention to its professional speakers to make them feel valued and further inspire good presentations. For example, the association is becoming famous for its cookie baskets.

Monroe says it's a simple matter to check with the speaker's assistant for personal things that aren't apparent from the speaker's resume. Then, with the aid of an Austin bakery, The Cookie Basket, the association provides its professional speakers with what Monroe calls "a display of their life" in cookies. A basket sent to Gary LaBranche, CAE, for example, contained a "poodle cookie," featuring his poodle's name.

Airport greetings can be a source of surprise and underscore the element of special attention. One speaker was met at the airport by "a limo and a longneck"--a limousine featuring a refrigerator with Texas beer. Another was greeted by Devo, the University of Texas mascot.

On the bottom line, Marilyn Monroe says, "The more important you make them feel, the better they will perform for your group."

Three Tips for Working With Speakers

1. Know your speaker's capabilities, including the types of presentations for which he or she is best suited.

2. Communicate, communicate, communicate, before, during, and after the speaker's presentation.

3. Make your speakers feel important. Do your research to "personalize" your speaker's logistics and gifts.

Katherine L. George, CAE, is president of Catalina Communications, Alexandria, Virginia.
COPYRIGHT 1993 American Society of Association Executives
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:includes related article
Author:George, Katherine L.
Publication:Association Management
Date:Jan 1, 1993
Previous Article:Partners' paradise.
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