For people who play golf for their profession, there is no greater honor than to wear the Green Jacket. For professional baseball players, there is no greater honor than to wear a World Series Ring. Boxers can gain no greater honor than to wear the Championship belt for their division. For business leaders who make their mark by leading and managing people, there is no greater honor than to be called a Professional Speaker.
The business world is not quite as organized as professional sports with established leagues and championship protocols. There are a few paths to gain the Professional Speaker designation. The National Speakers Association has prerequisites for becoming a member, so that a speaker must have gained acceptance as a Professional Speaker before even being accepted into the organization. Before gaining recognition from the National Speakers Association one must gain recognition from two other groups who do not give out their endorsements lightly: association meeting planners and corporate meeting planners.
If you have an interesting topic, and are active in a trade association, you can often get yourself on a conference schedule as a member of a panel or as a session presenter. Every association event has a “call for presenters”. Associations are always looking for great content for seminars and sessions. However, if your message is not well received nor well delivered, attendees will not remember you and not praise your session in the event review surveys. You might get on the schedule once or twice, but not a third time.
If you can move the audience, fill the room and help create anticipation for the next event this association hosts, the planners will put you on the list of those they consider a Professional Speaker and you will be called on again to help them. This is truly an earned honor. Many people wish to present at conferences and conventions to help promote their businesses. But the list of people who can truly deliver for the meeting planner is not so long. When association meeting planners place the Professional Speaker mantel on your shoulders, you know you have exceeded their expectations. This mantel must be worn with respect. It can be taken away as easy as it was given. So a professional speaker who knows this will be careful to make sure that the meeting planners’ expectations are understood and are considered first and foremost, when creating and giving presentations.
Make sure to check with the meeting planners to be sure you understand the broader and more specific goals of each event. Ask for feedback to help make your presentations more valuable to the planners.
Association meeting planners are in a tough situation. They are expected to deliver top notch quality sessions that are delivered in the most captivating and entertaining manner, while coming in under budget.
Corporate meeting planners are also in a tough situation. Their superiors have big expectations of a presenter or a facilitator. The end result has to be measurable. The end result has to lead to an increase in whatever metrics the department tracks. Ultimately the end result has to lead to increased profit. This is not the easiest goal to deliver. When going in to lead a session or facilitate a seminar, you may not yet know all the inner workings of that department or that company. There can be many reasons a company will not be able to gain a measurable bump from a professional speaker. Going in to talk for a day or two will usually not cause a fundamental shift in that company’s culture, politics or standard procedures. Or will it?
When a person from the outside can inspire, motivate, excite, frighten or otherwise move an audience at a corporate event, a shift in focus or direction can happen. When you are driving a car, a tiny shift in steering can take you in a whole new direction. This is why professional drivers take the wheel of race cars. When target shooting with a pistol, a fraction of a degree can make you either hit or miss the target. This is why you seek the help of a professional marksman if you want your aim to be right on every time. Sometimes a very small shift in the attitudes and understandings of an audience can cause a real shift in direction.
A professional speaker can make that small shift happen in a short period of time. This is what really separates the pros from the rest of the crowd.
Many businesses will have a solution vendor come in to present best practices in using the solution. Other times businesses will bring in a business leader or manager who has had success in a similar field. Either way, the corporate event planner, whether the planner is a full time event planner or the unit manager looking for a boost in the unit’s performance, is looking for a set of expected results. There needs to be a better understanding, a better approach or even a better phrase left behind for the attendees to use to shift the business in a more profitable direction.
When a corporate meeting planner invites a presenter back for a second time or recommends a presenter to other event planners, this presenter has been handed a great honor. When a corporate event planner places the mantle of “Professional Speaker” upon the shoulders of a presenter, the honor cannot be taken lightly.