Content Trumps Everything
I asked a number of speakers what criteria they believe are most important when it comes to winning keynote opportunities. Typical comments were: “You haven’t got a prayer until you have a book, video and YouTube clips to your credit,” or “You’ve got to have a cool video up on your website.”
I conducted an informal survey of corporate leaders who are the decision makers in these matters, and the results indicated that videos, YouTube clips and books are not the crucial, make-it-or-break-it factors many believe they are. Rather, these executives mention industry reputation and name recognition as being most critically important. They are quick to add that the informal recommendations they receive from knowledgeable third parties play a significant role. Not surprisingly, a speaker’s “affordability” is also a consideration.
Patricia McManus Corcoran, director, Strategic HR at Black & Veach Corp., a global leader in engineering and construction, said, “In order to find speakers and trainers, I use a combination of verbal recommendations from colleagues and Internet research that we do internally. It is particularly meaningful to me when one of my colleagues returns from a convention and recommends hiring one of the speakers.”
Randy Root, president of Westwood Trust, says he judges speakers based on “the timeliness of the topic, as well as their star power, availability and affordability.” In the past, he had the most success with an expert on China and a Washington analyst, who was the “all-time favorite” due to that speaker’s timeliness: “We brought him in just before the 2012 Presidential election.” Root says he does not use videos and YouTube clips as a selection tool; however, he does find they are very helpful when it comes to educating others about the speaker and persuading them to attend the event once the speaker has been booked. Allison Murray, director of marketing at Fiserv, a global provider of financial services technology, bases her choice of speaker on content expertise, the effectiveness of the presentation and the speaker’s availability.
When asked if she thought it was important for speakers to have YouTube clips or a book, she said, “Neither is important.” Going forward, if you want to break into the corporate world, McManus Corcoran recommends that speakers and trainers should have a very engaging speaking style and extremely relevant content. “Find ways to engage the audience as much as possible and help them apply the content to their specific situation. If it has no immediate application, it is just information in one ear and out the other,” she said.
Bottom line: A less-than-entertaining speaker with thought-provoking content will win out over a polished speaker with non-actionable points.