Choosing a great speaker for your networking event

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Business networking events are as popular as ever. They are a fantastic way of meeting prospective customers and suppliers, particularly those who operate locally. For the organiser, they can take a huge amount of planning, from choosing a venue, arranging a date and time, sorting out food and drinks, and getting people interested in attending the event.

Are you thinking of running a networking event? Networking events can take a variety of formats, from simple mingling, to speed-networking and running seminars. Hiring a guest speaker as a way of breaking up the event and entertaining and educating your attendees is a good option but how do you know which speaker is right for you?

Type of speaker

First of all consider the type of speaker you want for your event. If its a free business networking event, then a local successful business person could be good, but if the event is more social then you may prefer a professional after-dinner speaker. Think about the theme of your event and try to find someone who can fulfil the aims, whether that is to offer marketing wisdom to your attendees, or encourage better business co-operation and communication. You could even show a video of business tips from an expert as a more cost-effective alternative.

Budget

Your choice of speaker will be heavily influenced by your available budget. While your options will be wider the more money you have, theres no reason to spend a fortune. A local business person may be willing to be a guest speaker on their specialist topic in return for exposure and free food and drink. This works well if youre running a free event and need to minimise your costs, although if your guests are paying a high ticket price to attend, then they will expect more. Whether you engage the services of a freebie or a pro, you may want to have a back-up speaker on stand-by in case of any issues on the day.

Recommendation

Ask around your current business network for a personal recommendation. Choosing a speaker whose expertise has been witnessed is better than pulling someone at random from a trade directory. If you need to pay for a speaker, then ask if you can watch them at a booking before you make a decision.

Demographics

Think about the likely demographics of your attendee list and try and find a speaker to suit - are your attendees business women, all local, older, or from a specific industry? Your speaker needs to be able to engage with your attendees, and appeal to them - not only for good ticket sales but for a positive experience which will encourage recommendation of your events to others in the future. While it may be tempting to hire someone controversial to create a stir, theres the danger youll be accused of not knowing your audience, so take care!

Networking events can be a lot of fun to organise and provide you, the organiser, with an opportunity to sell yourself as an in-the-know business person. Hire yourself a speaker who represents the image you are trying to portray for yourself as a networking event provider and watch your credibility soar.

If youre attending a networking event for the first time then please have a look at this insightful and informative article from The Guardian - How to make the most of networking.