How to Get a Motivational Speaker to Add Pizzazz to Your Event

Whether you’re a non-profit organization, an industry trade association, or a business, your upcoming event likely faces stiff competition from similar events. If your group has tasked you with planning the event, you need to make sure that your event has the kind of pizzazz that will make attendees want to come back year after year. One of the best ways to add pizzazz to your event is to find a motivational speaker that will rock the house. Here’s how:

Quick Takeways:

  • Find a motivational speaker whose speeches draw large numbers of loyal fans.
  • Choose a speaker whose topic and expertise pair well with your event’s focus.
  • Get to know your potential audience to learn their needs, goals, and pain points.
  • Use targeted marketing before and during the event to build anticipation.

One of the main challenges to get people to your event is the boredom factor, particularly if your event is a recurring one. Often, people skip sessions – or even the event itself – if they’ve been to the same event time and time again. As the meeting planning experts at Meetings Imagined put it, “once you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all.”

Yet, adding pizzazz is more than just finding a slick talker and a little razzle-dazzle.

It’s more about finding the right speaker for the right audience – one who’s a proven motivator in both speech and action.

Find a Motivational Speaker with a Large Following

Chief among the factors that draw attendees is having a motivational speaker with a guaranteed following – usually an indication of a spellbinding speaker. Not only must the speaker have legions of fans who will travel halfway around the globe to hear her speak, but she must add the kind of spark to your event that will make new attendees stand up and take notice.

Choose a Speaker Whose Focus Aligns with Your Own

Secondly, your speaker’s area of expertise should dovetail with the purpose of your event. It needn’t be an exact match, but the speaker’s topic should bring value to the attendees.

Let’s consider a marketing conference. Not only should you search through marketing industry movers and shakers, but you could also look at retired political figures who drew voters to their side for years. Marketers would doubtless love to learn their secret to winning over people to their side.

Sports legends, too, who mesmerized fans with not only their talent but also with charisma, might be a great choice. Even though these speakers might not be in the marketing industry, their ability to draw people in is a skill that marketers will want to learn how to master.

Interviewed in Eventbrite, Speakers’ Corner managing director Nick Gold advises planners to set clear goals for what they want the speaker to accomplish. Those goals can help you narrow down your choice of speakers.

For instance, if you want to motivate your audience to treat every day at work as if it were a major sports competition, a former (or even current) sports star with some business experience can help attendees make the connection between mental and skills preparation and performance on the job.

If, on the other hand, you’re gathering a group of new entrepreneurs, choosing a speaker who climbed from rags to riches on her hard work and entrepreneurial savvy would be the perfect choice to inspire attendees to do the same.

Know Your Audience’s Goals, Desires, and Pain Points

Just like in marketing, event planning requires a good amount of research to choose the right speakers. Whether you’re choosing a small-group seminar leader or the keynote speaker, use available data and analytics to look at the audience’s demographics, level of expertise, and needs to find a speaker that can help them solve the problems they want answers for.

If you start early enough, you can even send out a survey to potential or registered attendees to see what their goals are in attending your event. If they’ve attended past events, allow them to share (preferably anonymously) what they liked and didn’t like about previous speakers.

A little extra time spent in research can pay off big-time in finding a speaker who will connect with your audience and their needs. Such thoughtfulness seems almost intuitive. Your audience will appreciate it – and will probably encourage their friends and colleagues to attend as well.

It goes without saying (although we will say it to drive the point home) that you need to start looking for a speaker well before the event. Plan to start your hunt for a speaker at least a half-year before the event. Ideally, you should start looking as soon as the current year’s event ends.

Consider the Speaking Schedule

As Gold points out, different speaking slots demand varying levels of energy in a speaker. For example, an after-lunch speaker needs to deliver a high-energy speech to counter the food comas many attendees will lull in.

Contrast that style to the thought-provoking, more meditative delivery that a close-of-day speaker should have. As you choose speakers for each slot, study some past speeches they’ve given to determine if they have the speaking chops to deliver the right tone for the speaking slot you’re considering them for.

Attend Similar Events (Or at Least Watch Videos) to Hear Them Yourself

It pays to attend a few similar industry events to track down promising speakers for your event. Study their audience’s response to determine if they can move an audience to act.

If you cannot attend an event where a speaker you are considering is speaking, see if you can find videos on YouTube or the speaker’s website to hear the speaker in action. Read reviews after each of the events to determine how actual audience members reacted to the speech.

Ensure a Memorable Experience with Targeted Marketing

Before the Event

Make sure that you have filled every seat in the auditorium with a targeted, intensive marketing campaign well before your event. Offer promotional merchandise to those who register early, as well as those who bring along their colleagues.

Use relevant content marketing to demonstrate your chosen speakers’ expertise in your field or related fields. Whether it’s a guest blog post on your company website, an interview on an authoritative industry publication, or a pre-event podcast to build interest in your event, use every opportunity to provide information to potential attendees.

Since nearly all potential attendees search for information about your event before they register, posting content on a variety of online channels is a major component of success. Use targeting tools available on both Google and social media to narrow down your audience to likely attendees.

Use social media to engage with your target audience. Link to short pieces of content that promise a more thorough treatment of the topic during the speaker’s presentation at the actual event. If potential attendees know that the speaker will help them solve a problem that has dogged them over the years, they’ll be more likely to attend.

At the Event

At your event, create plenty of buzz beforehand. Signs, book signing sessions, and teaser descriptions all help to build anticipation about the speaker’s appearance. Consider meet-and-greets after the speech to boost attendance at the speech itself.

Before Your Speaker Takes the Stage, Warm Up the Audience

Before the headline speaker takes the stage, warm up the audience with some great high energy walk-up music, an entertaining hype video, or a dynamic introduction. Your goal is a memorable experience in every way – so set the scene for your speaker with a great opening act.

Whether it’s a musician, a magician, or a comedian to warm up your audience with some lighthearted fun, it’s important to draw from your audience’s full range of emotions. Consider some of your organization’s homegrown talent, too. Skits – when they’re well done – can help prepare the way for a more serious talk by the main speaker.

With rigorous, targeted preparation both before and during the event, you will create the kind of emotional buzz that builds anticipation. If you’ve chosen your speaker well, that anticipation will translate into over-the-top pizzazz at the event itself.

Michael Brenner

Michael Brenner  is a Top CMO, Content Marketing and Digital Marketing Influencer, an international keynote speaker, author of "Mean People Suck" and "The Content Formula" and he is the CEO and Founder of Marketing Insider Group, a leading Content Marketing Agency . He has worked in leadership positions in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as for thriving startups. Today, Michael helps build successful content marketing programs for leading brands and startups alike. Subscribe here for regular updates.