A.I.M. carefully so you hit the target with your next speaker.

by Todd Mitchem

Five minutes until the keynote speaker’s presentation. As the person responsible for booking this speaker, the pressure is on you when that speaker hits the stage. Will he or she drive impact? Will you be the hero who booked someone who drove key learning that people will keep for a lifetime, or will that speaker land with a thud and tarnish your otherwise stellar career? After this presenter, you will either be viewed as the expert at research, key messaging, and someone who truly understood each participant’s needs or you will be the person with the most awful judgment. For you, these five minutes leading up to the keynote speaker are suspenseful.

I am here to tell you there is a quick method for you to get ahead of the anxiety and solve your challenge, while minimizing the risk BEFORE you get to those anxiety-ridden moments prior to the presentation. Below are my proven steps for taking better AIM when choosing which speaker you want to shoot at your target of creating impact and learning filled with key takeaways for every participant.

Authenticity – The world is more and more dominated by authentic messages which create powerful and thoughtful impact. The messages that break through to us are the ones focusing on relationships and improving the quality of our lives in a way that we feel connected to.  Often, speakers will try to be far too polished which, to them, means they are being professional. Audiences have outgrown polish. Audiences want you to find a person who will literally break through the polish with powerful and thoughtful stories, while still being professional and delivering a performance that hits each participant in different ways. Remember, each audience member will have a conversation in his or her head with the speaker. The first key to hitting your target of success is based on hiring a speaker who can speak to the room while making each person feel and see the message as real and personal to them.

Interaction – The best speakers on earth are the ones who engage the audience in both substance and style. Audiences spend valuable time, money, and energy to attend your event and listen to the keynote speaker you selected. The last thing the audience wants is to be bored; the last thing you want is that their boredom is blamed on you. For this step of AIM, you will need to talk to your speaker about engagement techniques and interaction. Do they simply deliver a boring PowerPoint and scripted message with no interaction? If so, you better get the pillows out for your participants so they can rest their weary heads. Remember that we also live in a world of hyper-customization. What I mean is that we customize everything from our cell phone screens to our Facebook profiles and now, as a culture, we expect everyone to customize themselves to us. This includes speakers. You need to ask your speaker how they will engage learning and how it will speak to audience members. For example, if you are hosting a large conference with both leaders and their spouses, you will need a speaker who can take the key learning and integrate the concept of personal relationships so that each member of the audience is engaged. WARNING: if your speaker utters the words, “I don’t really customize and there is not much interaction,” you need to run the other direction. Your very reputation could be in jeopardy, the audience is headed for dissatisfaction, and your event will become a disaster.

Message Clarity – Message clarity and organization are the final keys to an event that hits the success target. Many speakers take the “overlay” approach, in that they take one or two simple facts or specific details about your group and then simply overlay it onto their learning. For example, if your participants are 2,500 managers of fast food restaurants, it is not enough for your speaker to say, “So life as a manager is tough,” and then immediately move on to an unrelated topic of their speech. I would suggest you pay for your speaker to go visit restaurants and meet managers and then integrate the real world, actual language, and circumstances into the presentation in a way that sounds as if the message was customized just for that group. This level of message clarity from your speaker will earn you star status from your group and you will be seen as an expert in speaker selection.

So now what? The parts of AIM are specifically tailored to create a filter that you can pass all your potential speakers through to ensure your group is motivated to take lasting actions and apply powerful lessons. Hopefully, this strategy will motivate you to take specific actions in selecting the winning presenter. Think about yourself for a moment. Are you driven to deliver impact, to make sure each participant is fully excited and engaged? Is it critical to you that your efforts deliver learning while creating memories which turn into takeaways for each person that they can use daily to enhance their lives? If you answered yes to any of those questions, then you are a person who cares about outcomes. You deserve to find a speaker who matches your commitment level so that every event is a success. For you to become the star who took the conference to the next level, take AIM and hit your target!

Please comment below if this was helpful and tell me if I missed any other critical points. 

Todd Mitchem


Todd Mitchem