6 Ways Not to Treat a Speaker at Your Event!

I’m just getting ready to kick off the spring conference season and I’ve already had a handful of reminders of how not to treat someone who you are trusting to come to speak to your audience! It always amazes me how some conference organizers get this completely right and some fail massively!

Here are a few things you shouldn’t do:

1. Limit the conference pass to one day the speaker will be speaking. 

Really, you are asking me to come to speak at your conference, but then you are only going to give me access to your conference the one day you actually have me speaking? I think you’re missing the boat on what I might bring to the other days by having me there, plus you look super cheap and petty.

2. Only paying for one night of lodging. 

So, I’m coming from a snowy climate and you are now asking me to gamble that I’ll actually make it to your event. I can come the day before to ensure I’ll be there, but then you have me speak at 4 pm so I can’t possibly get a fight out, and now I have to pay for a room for an extra night on my own? Again, if you can’t afford two nights lodging for a speaker, you probably can’t afford to put on a conference!

3. Put limits on expenses that are so under market you are now turning me into a spendthrift to attend your event. 

It’s at minimum a $50 Uber ride from the airport to your venue, but you put in the contract a maximum of $35 for transportation from the airport. Or the only restaurant within walking distance is the hotel restaurant where the cheapest meal will be $40, but your limit is $25. Look, I don’t want to kill you on big expenses, but I also don’t want to pack my own lunch to make this work!

4. Give me a gift that is almost impossible to bring onto a plane. 

Okay, this sounds like I’m a pompous ass, right! Tim is complaining about a gift!?! But, if you give me a cutting board the size of Texas to bring home, I totally love the thought, but know that thing is never coming home with me! It’s not that I don’t love you did this, and it’s not generous, it’s that logistically it’s just a pain.

5. Don’t have diet Mt. Dew. 

Okay, this one is a bit personal but I don’t drink coffee and you want me coming in hot with the audience. Fully caffeinated, and shot out of a cannon!  “Would you like a bottle of water?” Nope! I’d like an IV drip of diet Dew!

6. Put them in a room that isn’t commensurate with the size of their audience.

Hey, we are so thankful for you to come to speak at our conference. To show you we put you in a room that holds 1,000 people, but we know only 50 will show up to see your session. Ugh! This is the worst ever for a speaker. To see hundreds of empty seats is defeating. It’s best to make the rooms smaller, have it standing room only, and the size of the room is a third the size. I don’t care about the size of the room, I care about how full the room is!

I’m a speaker and I hold events, and I understand the struggle of running an event and trying to make everyone happy. It’s next to impossible, but sometimes I think many of us aren’t even trying, or we care so much about the profitability of the event we start to treat people poorly.

The best events treat their speakers like a valuable commodity they want to return. How do we leave you with such a positive impression that you want to come back and you’ll tell your friends they should attend? That’s really the key. It doesn’t have to be about spending a bunch more money, but just making sure the speakers aren’t being put out of their way to perform their best at your event!

3 thoughts on “6 Ways Not to Treat a Speaker at Your Event!

  1. All excellent points, Tim. Fun to read, and great to realize we don’t do any of that to *our* speakers!
    … And then there was the organization that presented a wrapped speaker gift that included scissors (it was a personal hygiene kit — wha?), so when I went through the airport I got stopped, had to open my bag, unwrap the gift, and discover that stupidity. Had to say to myself, “What were they *thinking?”*

  2. This is a great list. As for the “huge gift” point, this is also true of how we treat our sales folks when we present awards (or any employee, if they traveled to the event). Keep the original box nearby, and have the shipping label to their home address already prepared. Offer to take care of it for them so that crystal orb doesn’t get dropped by your local baggage handler, or left in a hotel room because it’s so bulky.

    All these details are great points for speakers, and also for the conference attendees. Time to update those travel policies. If you can afford to send the person to the conference, expect to pay those big-city costs for meals and transportation.

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