Chapter Leadership: Choosing Dynamic Content for Your Next Meeting

SS Blog Post
There are so many items that go into pulling off a successful event from the venue to the food, but the hardest task is often planning the educational content.

The first thing you have to do is make a plan. What do your chapter members want to hear about? What is a good time of year to have your educational content meetings? Take all the guess work out of the planning and ASK!

Create an educational needs survey which is designed to gain important feedback from your chapter members. Limit the length of the survey to three to five questions and ask things like:

  1. What are three problems you are facing in your current position on a regular basis?
  2. What are three items you wish you knew more about in our industry?
  3. What keeps you up at night? (As it relates to your job)

These questions allow individuals to give you introspective answers that you can use in building your yearly meeting calendar.

Budgeting for a speaker can be challenging, but you always want to make sure you have some money (even a small amount) ear-marked for speakers. Expenses can creep up on you even if there isn’t a fee for a speaker – a speaker may be expecting something in return such as reimbursement for travel, lodging, etc.

Finding speakers is always a hard reality. You have your topics, you know when and where you want the meeting to take place, and you know how much you can spend. Now to find the speaker!

There are several great resources to secure speakers that meet your needs:

  • Meet Your Neighbors — Check out local chapter affiliations of allied organizations as well as speaker associations that might be willing to share in costs or even provide speakers at a nominal fee (CMAA, ACFE, National Speakers Association, Professional Speaking Association, etc.)
  • LinkedIn – This is a great resource you probably already have access to, check out your connections. Perhaps someone you are already connected with has expertise in a specific area. Also, the search bar function at the top of the page is great. When you need to search for any topic, simply type in your topic and your location, and the results could provide you with a targeted list of local experts.
  • Professional Speaker Organizations – There is an association for everything, including speakers. The National Speakers Association website is a great resource to find speakers who are looking to better their craft and are committed to the speaking industry. The organization also has local chapters throughout North America and in other parts of the world. You can even use the website to book speakers. Other speaking associations include Canadian Speakers Association, Public Speaking Association, among many, many more.
  • Speaker Match – Welcome to for speakers! You can use this handy website in two different ways. You can post an ad explaining exactly what you are looking for including topic, location and budget, and review all of the responses to your ad. OR do a search right on their home page to pull up a list of potential speakers if you want to avoid the back and forth of using an ad. This is a great and very timely resource and did I mention it’s FREE?!

Of course every speaker is different whether they be a paid speaker who earns their living by speaking to groups or a volunteer speaker – someone who speaks in addition to their current job. However there are a number of things you want to make sure you have in place:

  • A written agreement outlining EXACTLY what you expect from your speaker including length of presentation, any additional items you would like: Q&A afterwards, a YouTube video promoting the speaker’s participation, copies of their latest book, attending a meet and greet with members, and of course payment. Whether you are paying a fee or simply covering speaker expenses – it’s SO important to highlight in very specific details the compensation (fee, airfaire, mileage, hotel night, meals, etc.) so there is no misunderstanding.
  • Always have a Plan B in your agreement asking, if the speaker is unable to fulfill the speaking engagement for any reason, the speaker will assist you in finding a replacement that is agreed upon by both parties. Life happens – so protect your event by asking for help if the initial agreement can’t be honored.
  • Assign one person to be a liaison to the speakers for your educational content meetings. The speaker will (and should) have a lot of questions about your chapter and your event. You’ll want to give them one point of contact that they can be reached to respond to questions and provide support information. Some will ask you to complete a questionnaire and some may ask for a conference call prior to the event to make sure there is a mutual understanding of what is expected – and if they don’t offer a conference call ASK FOR ONE in the agreement.

Speakers and subject matter experts are an essential part to all of us continuing our adult education. If you gauge your audience as a road map for your content management, you’ll be providing an incredible value for your chapter members. There are a ton of resources to find those perfect speakers, and when you do find one, make sure you are protected by asking the right questions along with the right documentation.

Steven Stout, CAE is the director of meetings and special events for Hospitality Financial and Technology Professionals. Follow Steven (@stevenjs) on Twitter.Stout_Stevenw

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About the Author: Steven Stout, CAE