How to Speak Out

By Julie Sturgeon

We’ve all squirmed listening to a poor speaker and have paid dearly in lost time and sore rumps. Keeping those sharp memories in mind, follow these steps by professional speaker Susan Schubert, M.A., co-owner of Schubert-Kravitz Associates in Pickerington, Ohio, to avoid inflicting the same pain on your employees the next time you book a speaker:

1. A Speaker or Just a Talker?
It’s easy to be fooled into thinking a good conversationalist is a professional speaker. Both have the ability to focus on the other party as if that person (or audience) were the only thing present on Earth. Both want to understand what the other person is trying to say. Neither could be considered boring.

However, speakers go a step beyond: They are comfortable in front of a lot of people, a situation that doesn’t always thrill conversationalists. Speakers know how to project their voice and use a microphone correctly. They also don’t appear nervous. And they know how to draw others into what they are saying through eye contact.

2. Take Reputation with a Grain of Salt.
Perusing a flier or acting on a colleague’s recommendation is a great place to start your search, but never end it there. To ensure that your audience stays awake, meet the speaker in person with this checklist in hand:

  • Does this speaker have something worthwhile to offer my staff?
  • Does the presentation have valuable content or is it all high-caloric fluff?
  • Does this speaker know enough about my industry to relate?
  • Does this person have an interesting, satisfying presentation style?
  • Is this speaker comfortable on the platform?
  • Does this person present concepts clearly?
  • Does this person use visual aids to get the point across?
  • Does this person use bad language, poor grammar or inappropriate humor?

3. Chuck the Price Tag.
Of course price matters when booking a speaker, but shopping for the cheapest is a fabulous way to waste money. The real secret is to negotiate several additional duties with the higher-priced speaker. For example, Schubert once agreed to videotape a program so the client could show the presentation to other branches. You could ask the speaker to open your conference meeting, then use him as a facilitator during the afternoon. And don’t overlook the newsletter articles this person could write and workbooks/educational materials he could provide.