What do conference delegates look for in speakers?

by Editorial Team
5 minutes read

Speakers play a very important role in conferences and other business meetings. They are regarded as sources of fresh, in-depth and insightful information from their various areas of expertise and experience.

It is, however, not enough to just invite knowledgeable speakers to business events. Conference delegates look for more than just information in a speaker. This is because business events are experiential brands which the delegates judge on the basis of the whole experience and not just the speaker’s knowledge. So what do attendees of business meetings such conferences look for in speakers? Here are five of them:

  • Cutting-edge information

Delegates who attend conferences and other business meetings are usually people with an interest in the event. These are company representatives attending events such as membership-based organisations like the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC) annual meeting which tackle industry or sector-wide issues. Because of this, attendees expect cutting edge information which enables them to overcome some of the challenges which they encounter daily.

They would not be expecting the regurgitation of already-known facts which are freely available on the internet. They would be expecting current, up-to-date information and insights which enable them to solve their challenges and to do business better. They would be looking for relevant research-based information which they can easily apply to their situations.

For example given Zimbabwe’s current economic situation, delegates do not expect speakers to load them with economic theories instead of practical suggestions to assist them to overcome their challenges such as foreign currency and electricity shortages or working capital to enable them to operate comfortably as companies and grow their businesses.

  • Customised information which addresses attendees’ concerns

As indicated in the foregoing point, most attendees of business meetings attend to seek solutions for problems and anxieties in various areas of their businesses. This calls for subject expert type of speakers who combine experience, expertise and knowledge to deliver practical solutions which delegates can take away with them for possible application back at their businesses. These are the kind of speakers who thoroughly know their stuff. They address attendees’ quest for answers to delegates’ most important question: what’s new and exciting during this year’s edition of the conference?

  • Story-telling speakers

Conferences are not high school classes where lessons are largely drilled by teachers who expect their students to internalise them largely by rote. On the contrary, they are adult events where attendees expect to be treated as such. One way of ensuring that speakers treat delegates as equals and interactants is the use of storytelling.

Storytelling refers to the inclusion of anecdotes and examples from the experience and knowledge of speakers which are meant to illustrate or exemplify points in their presentations. These may have happened in the life and experience of the speakers or to other people or organisations. These lend credence to some of the points in their presentations. Stories enrich business events. They also help to draw delegates’ attention as it is natural for humans to pay attention to stories. The stories remove the one-way and rigid nature of some conference presentations by introducing light moments.

Stories also add a human element to the whole experience which eases the too- business-like atmosphere which sometimes sets in if a presenter is an introvert or someone who is so serious to the extent of thinking that cracking a joke or too would render them a comedian before attendees.

  • Sensitivity to delegates’ need for question time

Delegates and attendees are very sensitive when it comes to time for questions and answers during a conference. This portion of a conference presentation provides delegates with time to ask questions on issues they would have misunderstood or not understood.

As delegates take in information being presented by a speaker they fit some of it to their situations back at the office or factory. Sometime the applicability raises questions and issues which may need the speakers’ clarification. A question and answer session helps a speaker to be better understood. Some conference organisers give attendees an opportunity to assess and rate speakers with the view to establishing presenters who are popular with delegates on specific subjects and specific events. It enables them to invite speakers who are perceived by their regular attendees as adding value to the events. Question and answer sessions enable speakers to answer all the delegates’ questions which can improve the audience’s rating of him or her.

  • Tech-savvy individuals

Delegates also expect conference speakers to be tech-savvy individuals. This is because when organisers list speakers in their conference marketing materials prospective attendees, look up the profiles of the speakers on the internet using social and professional media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn among others.

This enables them to establish their backgrounds, experience, expertise and other aspects of their careers before deciding whether or not to attend the marketed events. Some even link up with the speakers before the event spelling out their expectations which enriches the events and benefits organisers and delegates. Some additionally Google up the speakers names on the internet with the view to find media stories on the exploits or lack thereof as another complementary way of getting as much information on prospective speakers as possible,

Tech-savvy speakers do not only benefit prospective delegates. When they post about imminent speaking gigs on their social media handles and pages they will, in fact, be marketing the events thereby assisting organisers to reach out more prospective attendees.

This list of conference delegates is by no means exhaustive. There are many more issues which attendees expect from speakers at events they wish to attend. One way that event organisers can get the issue of delegate expectations right is through carrying small surveys during or after events using contact details secured during the registration sessions of events to establish delegates and prospective delegates’ expectations of speakers.

The information so obtained can then be used in selecting conference and other meeting speakers which improves the delegates’ experiences. This assists in building event brands through positive buzz on the market and word of market referrals.


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