Be My Guest

By Heather Baldwin

It’s no secret that a guest speaker can breathe new life into old meetings. After all, a new face with fresh ideas can offer a new perspective, motivate employees or finally drive home that point you’ve been trying to make for the last three weeks to no avail. But where can you find people willing to give up their time to speak at your meeting? They’re all around you, say Robert Miller and Marilyn Pincus in Running a Meeting That Works (Barron’s Educational Series, 1997). Here are some good places to start looking.

Your own company. Did your company recently change the way it handles customer calls? Invite a customer service supervisor in to talk about how they’re now dealing with your reps’ customers. Do your reps need a financial refresher in order to help them build the ROI case for potential buyers? Bring in an expert from the finance department.

Suppliers. An expert from one of your suppliers may be able to shed some light on the reasons why a rush order on titanium rods is virtually impossible these days – which in turn will help your reps better explain things to their customers. Or say you sell paint. A supplier may be able to give you a layman’s science lesson about why some of the chemicals in your brand of paint adhere so well to certain surfaces – a lesson that could be both interesting and useful in clinching a sale.

Local college or university. Invite a professor with expertise in sales or in an area related to your company.

Library. Your local librarian probably can provide some great assistance in locating speakers from local government groups and private associations.

Speakers’ bureau. Your industry association may operate a speakers’ bureau. If so, you can probably find a local speaker with expertise in your market. If you’re looking for a speaker on a more general topic, such as leadership or motivation, check the telephone book for speakers’ bureau listings. Be aware that some speakers charge a fee.

Keep a file. Whenever you attend community gatherings, training programs or networking events, keep an eye and ear out for potential speakers. Collect their business cards in a file and pull them out when you feel your meetings need a boost.