Who should speak at your next marketing event? John Chambers, Steve Jobs, or Bruce Schneier would all be great choices, but chances are they won’t be able to fit you into their schedule this year. You can go the other extreme and hire your own sales manager or perhaps convince a local channel manager, or worse, presales SE (Systems Engineer) to take the stage. Both mindsets are wrong. So who should speak?
Decision makers don’t want to leave the office for techno speak, and a product pitch is sure to put them to sleep. But industry news with business relevance can be worth taking time out of a busy day. Depending on the size companies you target, you will have variance here on the caliber of speaker you need. But no matter who speaks, the person must understand the goal; “educating business leaders in our community.” The speaker must be able to connect with the audience at the business level. That means speaking in terms business people understand. They must also understand how the marketing aspects of this event work. Too analytical, and expect your audience to get bogged down in analysis paralysis or worse, fall asleep or leave. Remember, sales are emotional, so we are looking for stories and events that solicit an emotional response.
At some level, this speaker should also be entertaining. Not a humorist, but certainly able to tell their story in a way that draws in the listener and provides a fun experience. They must also speak with authority – again, with respect to the market they speak to. Most free speakers are free for a reason; they don’t add any value to this event. Some of the speakers I have used successfully have included FBI Cybercrime Investigators, Gartner Group Analysts, technical superstars that may have started a company or invented something, and industry speakers who have authorship or have earned a name through some association such as SANS. A customer case study can work, however, make sure your customer really can speak to a group. I’ve seen some disasters that were hard to recover from.
© 2011, David Stelzl