5 Ways to Maximize Investments in all your Meeting Presenters

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By Andrea Driessen

Whether you invite external keynoters, subject matter experts, breakout session presenters or a combination of these speakers to your meetings, you invest a great deal of time, effort and money to involve others in delivering actionable content. And with over 2.7 million people worldwide watching TED talks every day, audiences everywhere have come to expect speakers to be exceptionally compelling, engaging and memorable.

So how can you make the most of all speakers’ time and talent? Five easy ways:


This one phone call can take your meetings from mediocre to memorable. How it works: invite to a conference call all your meeting-message stakeholders who play significant roles in sharing expertise. Your goals are to air and then reinforce the most important “meta-message” take aways for your audience. Invariably—in the simple act of conversation—otherwise unknown themes and patterns emerge. Connections and common ground are found that boost each speaker’s impact.

This call also ensures that any content redundancies and contradictions are revealed and removed in advance, so you can make the most of every minute.

Trying to convey too many messages can mean very little sticks. Often, we communicate more—and more is remembered—when we communicate in more strategic, streamlined, unified ways. What if attendees only remember one or two Tweets’ worth of content? In fact, that may be all they DO remember. So intentionally plan for this reality and seed key messages by beginning with this conference call.


Speaking of communicating too much, it’s natural to assume that more of something is better. Who wouldn’t want more money, more time…more ice cream?! But here’s what’s weird: the power of more is usually inversely true for things like information and choice. In these cases, more isn’t often better; it’s just more. In fact, sometimes more is…less!

In his book The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less, Barry Schwartz shows us why having more choices leads to poorer decisions. Sound counter-intuitive?

Advising hundreds of individuals and groups on external speaker selections and agenda designs over the last 15 years, I see organizations often held captive by this paradox.

There’s a common, yet false belief that the more experts considered for a speaker slot, the better the final speaker choice, and the better the audience experience. That the more information we give to meeting goers, the better off they’ll be.

What happens instead: mired decision making, analysis paralysis, information overload, and people whose minds learn and recall less. Save yourself effort and aspirin, as you boost learning and group morale, by heeding the paradox of choice. In short, aim not for more for the sake of more, but less for the sake of success.

First begin with the end in mind by identifying your top meeting goals in advance. (Seems obvious, and yet is extraordinarily rare!)

Then, before even one speaker’s or subject matter expert’s name is uttered, ask: what do we want our audience to think, feel, do and/or believe after the session?

This one key question alone will elevate your discussion, add discipline to your speaker-selection process, and focus everyone’s thinking on the most important outcomes. For example, if you want the audience to become more accountable about their results and their projects, eliminate any speaker whose message doesn’t deliver on this point.

Then list your top four to five criteria for your best-fit expert. Name recognition that drives registration? Industry experience? Help with marketing the program? Fee? Compare every speaker to each of these parameters. Those who don’t fit are out of the running. Seems harsh, yet it’s endlessly helpful.

You’ll now really see how less is more—the seeming paradox. You’ll have just three to five (not an overwhelming list of 30-50!) of the very best speaker choices, all of whom fit your top goals. Remember: you needn’t consider every speaker who could possibly fit for you to know you’ve chosen a very best alternative. Using the above process, you can trust that any one from this small group will fully deliver.


Start and end your meeting by reinforcing (“bookending”) your theme, goals and key messages. My clients add elements such as unifying skits, retrospective videos, talk shows, custom songs, graphic illustration and games that reinforce main points and tie metaphorical and memorable “ribbons” around programming.

Perhaps your meeting starts with a keynote in which you announce a new company initiative. And ends with an all-voices heard, customized company anthem, featuring how this initiative will be executed—sending everyone off on the highest possible note. Whether an hour, a day or a week in length, your meeting—when “bookended”—will be more memorable, Tweetable and rave-worthy.


Three simple, no-cost stress relievers:

  • Presenters from out of town? Lessen anxiety and create a safety net by noting in contracts that incoming flights be booked with at least one backup flight in case of delays or cancellations.
  • Ensure the room set up maximizes everyone’s ability to hear and see speakers, as well as share insights among participants (not as standard as you might think).
  • Never change how professional speakers’ introductions will be read without their permission. You could throw them off, and throw off their performances.

I developed what I call the Post-Program Pair Up to easily boost attendees’ accountability and results. Simply pair participants (by seat numbers, napkin colors, personal choice) and explain that they’ve just met their “accountability buddy” for the next 30 days.

Then ask each person to record at least one goal related to the meeting that they’ll commit to completing in the next month, and have them check in with one another.

You’ll gain immeasurable buy-in and accountability from attendees who’ve made critical, in-person connections they may not have otherwise, and build stronger results tied to the agenda.

Want even broader results from the top down? Beyond attendees forming accountability pairs, have organizational leadership commit to what they’re going to achieve. They email the entire organization about what they’ll do differently, and report progress—and challenges. As the meeting professional, you can highlight some audience members each week to recognize accomplishments among everyone.

Voila: You’ve maximized accountability, engagement, leadership transparency and performance.