Thursday, April 07, 2011

5 Reasons The CEO Cares Who Speaks At The Company Meeting

Internal employee meetings and external client users conferences that involve presentations need the CEO (or other boss) engaged in selecting who will be speaking to the audience.

Too many senior executives fail to choose an active role in the event planning process, which sets them up for surprises.  CEO's do not like surprises.

It is common for executives, who have attended a bazillion conferences in their career, to make blanket statements of what they are looking for in a speaker and then delegate the decision to others.  Often nobody has thought deeply about the purpose of the meeting, and the learning objectives for the audience, and how the speaker will advance the success of the event.

"Topics" or "types" of speakers do not always translate into impactful presentations.  If the boss (or someone they trust) has not seen a specific speaker live on stage, they need to pay more attention to the selection process.

In the planning stages many are not thinking through the realities of an event experience (unless the company has employed a professional meeting planner).  Often speakers are selected because they are famous or they have accomplished something amazing in their industry.  However, if nobody has ever seen the speaker present, the message might not be in alignment with the meeting's purpose (or worse, they have not perfected their public speaking skills).

The CEO (or other executive who "owns" the meeting) needs to be directly involved in the decisions about who will be the speaker(s).  The speaker sets the tone for the entire event, and a mistake can cause the whole meeting to be flat.

Here are five reasons the boss cares who speaks at the company meeting:

1.  Events cost a lot of money.  A speaker's failure to captivate, motivate, inspire and educate an audience can flush the ROI of the meeting down the toilet.

2. Their reputation is on the line.  The executive who own the meeting is the host of the event.  If the event sucks, they are viewed in a negative light.

3. The audience wants both education and entertainment.  Creating a positive experience will cause people to be more loyal toward the company.  The reverse is true too.

4. The boss wants to be motivated too.  Nobody wants to sit through a long and boring presentation.  The boss has the ability to decide who takes the stage.  If the speaker is awful it is their fault, and they know it.

5. Great ideas, stories, and inspiration spark action.  The right speaker can make employees and clients take action.  This can translate into productivity and profits for the company.

When planning a company meeting make sure the boss is involved in the speaker selection.  Even if he or she claims they do not care or do not have the time, they have a invested interest in making sure the right speaker(s) are hired. 

Have A Great Day.

thom singer


Jeff Hurt said...


Interesting points. I've seen just the opposite true as well.

Often there is an assumption that the CEO understands presentation dynamics. When a CEO does not understand what will resonate with an audience, their recommendations fail. Typically a CEO understands the needs of their customers but that does not automatically translate into the needs of a conference audience.

CEOs' jobs are to be the owner, the executive management and usually the president. Their expertise is in running a company, not in picking speakers for an event.

I prefer when a CEO hires the right staff that knows how to pick speakers that resonate with the audience. There is great wisdom when the CEO defers to the person with the expertise at securing speakers rather than micro-managing the process.

If the CEO does not have the right staff that can secure the right speakers, there is a bigger problem at hand.

I as a meeting professional was much more successful when the CEO allowed me to do my job of securing the right speakers. Then I made him/her look good. When the CEO got into the details and mandated who was hired as the speaker, it usually failed.

Thom Singer said...


thanks for your comment. I fully agree with you, but many companies do not employ or outsource the meeting planning function, but instead hand it off to an administrator or marketing.

You are right that many CEO's have no clue about the skills required to speak, but if they do not have experienced staff or contractors, they had better be a fast study or risk their meeting!

Nothing beats having great meeting professionals on staff or speed dial.