Caring for the Speaker: Tips for the Host

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I was exhausted, and slumped into the nearest chair. It had been a difficult day and it was only 11:30 am. I was sick and in the middle of a five lecture day. Never again, I told myself would I lose control of my speaking environment. Famous last words. Things can and do go wrong with speaking engagements. Speakers need to have control of certain things to prevent problems from coming up. Here are some from my experience:

I was in a city in western Canada doing that five lecture event and had allowed myself to be billeted with a friend. The bed was a hide-a-bed sofa with a thin mattress. I am a thick man. I hardly slept. Hosts be prepared to to put up the speaker in a decent hotel or motel.

In another time, another place, I was asked to attend a long evening event the night before a workshop. I got in too late to do my usual last rehersals. Hosts should not expect speakers to participate in evening events before doing an all day workshop.

I was speaking at a genealogy conference in a large hotel and needed to keep my throat moist. Hotel water was all I had access too. It gave me problems. I now insist on bottled water. Hosts should bear in mind that water from the tap from a local supply may not be quite what the speaker’s tummy can take. Buy a bottle or two for the speaker.

Hosts really cannot cure a speaker’s sore throat, but I was impressed with one host who heard my voice fading late in the second hour. She supplied a throat lozange immediately, and arranged my lunch break so I could rest my voice. For dessert, the rest of the lozanges! That was a life saver!

On a speaking engagement in Washington my hosts put me up in a nice motel. The nearest restaurant served almost good food. Fortunately I had my car with me, but could not find a good alternative place for breakfast early in the morning. Hosts do need to check out the restaurants in advance for the speaker. Have an alternate you can suggest.

I did two lectures for a small town library. The program planner did not take pre-registrations, so she had an unreasonable expectarion of the sort of room needed. What I got was more like a livestock auction ring, than a program room. There were just 8 people who attended. Hosts need to do pre-registration for events with out-of-town speakers so they can be aware in advance whether to use the board room or the livestock auction ring.

I spoke one at a genealogical conference in a capital city in western Canada and was sadly disappointed when the host said I would be paid after the end of the month, contrary to our verbal understanding. So I built in a clause that stipulates payment immediately after the program, on the same day. Naturally, I have still run into problems with people signing the contract but not preparing to have the check ready on the day. Hosts need to take care of these details. I will not go back to that conference unless I have assurances the host has read, understood, and has arrangements in place to honor their end of the deal.

I spoke in another western capital and my hosts put be up in the best suite in the hotel! I was impressed. Turns out that the executive of this genealogical society came from all over the region and met bimonthly in a hotel boardroom. Many stayed two nights in the hotel. THe host drew this to the attention of the hotel management and suggested that the hotel provide rooms for the two leading speakers. Here was a thinking host. And a hotel manager who liked those six meetings a year.

I was put up for one conference in a hotel that advertised that all guest rooms had a wireless internet link. Mine did not. A minor problem, but a good host should have checked on that before. I had to go down to the lobby to get my linkup.

I was speaking at a genealogy conference in the US intermountain west where I was expected to pay for my own accomodation. I was aware of this when I came, but anticipated the speaking experience would yield valuable contacts (it did, in spades!). I was pleasantly surpised when checking out to find my hosts had already picked up the charge! I was quite delighted. It made for a very nice experience.

Twice I have checked into conference hotels in smaller cities and found my hosts at the door with a fruit basket! Now there is a nice touch. I enjoyed the fresh fruit for a snack and for breakfast. Beats those mints on the pillow!

I trust there are lessons to learn from this for speakers and hosts.

What do you think?


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