Everyone loves the idea of a flawless sales process. From the initial email conversation with a meeting planner to the final signature on the contract, we’ve all dreamt of how it can be done better, faster, and with more assurance that the person you’re talking to will turn into a client. Unfortunately, outside of these daydreams, the reality is a little more work. It’s also a little more complicated. Depending on the age of your speaking business or the size of your team, the number of variables impacting your sales numbers can be huge. Because of this, not only are many speakers at a loss for why meeting planners turn them down. They’re also discouraged and tempted to downplay how often it happens.
That’s why, in this guide, we’re going to break down the top five reasons meeting planners turn down speakers for their upcoming event. It sounds like a bit of a sore topic – and that’s definitely fair – but it’s also a problem I guarantee you can solve. After all, the sooner you can say, “Oh, I didn’t even know I was doing that!” the sooner you can reverse it. In other words, the sooner you see it, the sooner you can fix it and start reeling in the gigs. 🙌
1. You’re not focused on the meeting planner’s needs for and after the event.
First and foremost, looking back on your own calls with meeting planners, how do you usually start them? Maybe it’s a little bit of small talk or mention of a mutual connection. Either way, the big question is: Who are you focusing on, the meeting planner or yourself? For many speakers, the urge to focus on themselves is subconscious, as they want to share how they can help right out of the gate.
However, for meeting planners, this approach isn’t necessarily helpful. Even though they obviously want a speaker that knows that they’re doing, in planning their event, they’re likely balancing a lot at once. As a result, they don’t want to hear why you are great, in general. They want to know why you’re great for them. Additionally, while a great keynote is definitely a plus for meeting planners considering you, their event doesn’t begin and end with a keynote. Before the event, they’ll want to promote it, and, afterwards, they may look for follow-up materials or additional resources. That way, they know event attendees will retain the event theme and your message long after you’ve left the stage.
Consequently, if you want to demonstrate your value to meeting planners, focus on their needs rather than your credentials. What are they looking for before and after the event? What’s the goal of the event, as a whole? Focus on asking these questions and more, and not only will they see how committed you are to providing value for them. They’ll also get an idea of how thoughtful you are, adding to the likelihood they’ll want to work with you in a greater capacity.
2. They see you as a speaker first, rather than an industry expert first.
The second reason meeting planners may be choosing another speaker over you is how they perceive you. For many speakers, in building their presence, they tend to focus on showcasing their speaking skills or highlighting the eye-catching clients they’ve spoken for in the past. In these cases, when meeting planners land on their website, they definitely know they’re a speaker. Additionally, they can see their past clients and get a sense of their speaking skills, based on the status of those clients. However, they may not immediately see your value as an expert in your field.
While there are definitely worse things you can do, when building your website, this disparity in presenting your value plays a huge role when it comes to engagement. On average, website visitors make the decision to continue reading or leave within the first 10 seconds. That means you have 10 seconds to show them your credentials, your speaking skills, and how you can help them. Because of this time-crunch, the key to keeping meeting planners interested on your website is presenting yourself as an expert first and a speaker second.
For example, to consider it from their point of view, think about your priorities when considering a new doctor. What do you care about more, their experience or how bubbly they are? While a friendly and sociable doctor is guaranteed to make your appointment more enjoyable, it doesn’t matter how nice they are if they don’t have a medical degree. In the same way, although meeting planners appreciate a high-quality speaker, they first want to see why you’re qualified to speak on your topic in the first place. That way, they can trust that you’re going to provide trustworthy insights and strategy for their client or company.
3. Your online presence is minimal or nonexistent.
Speaking of your presence (no pun intended), the third reason you may be losing meeting planners’ attention is your appearance online. This refers to your website, social media profiles – anywhere you are mentioned on the internet. Now more than ever, these appearances substantiate your credibility, as an expert and a speaker. In a way, your online presence is like a credit score (for US and Canadian speakers). Having a bad one is a red flag, but if it just needs some more history? You can fix that!
To start building your online presence, meeting planners want to see that you have a website. If you’re a full-time speaker, this website should showcase your credentials as an industry expert and as a speaker. On the flip side, if you’re a part-time speaker, having a website devoted to your primary business is perfectly acceptable. Just make sure to include a page for your speaking career in the main navigation bar.
All in all, the number of factors tied into your online presence is massive – I could write a whole guide just focusing on that! For now, though, to keep things brief, there are a few things you can do to boost your online presence right off the bat:
- Create social media pages for your speaking business (Facebook and LinkedIn, at a minimum) and post to them regularly.
- Offer to write guest blog articles or appear on podcasts for companies or groups in your focus industry.
- Post consistently to your own blog with insights and information related to your message and area of expertise.
- Offer to create videos for clients as they promote their event. That way, they can tag your social pages or profiles when they share your video(s).
4. Your event collateral is disorganized or mismatched.
Outside of your digital presence, another reason meeting planners may be turning their backs is your digital collateral. As you prepare to speak at an event, there are a ton of things to do – You already know this. For many of these things, although they seem small, combined they can add a level of professionalism to the event. This professionalism is amplified if you’re able to hand meeting planners your event preparation materials as soon as the contract is signed.
Conversely, if your event collateral is disorganized or if it’s not consistently branded, that professionalism disappears. With it, so do meeting planners and their willingness to consider you for their event. After all, every time a meeting planner looks over your website or meets with you, it’s like a job interview. Not only do they want to know why you’re qualified. They also want assurance that you’ll quickly and efficiently complete the task at hand. What better way to communicate both of those things than to say, “No worries, I’ve done this before. Here’s everything past clients have needed to from me to hit the ground running. Just let me know if you need anything else!” Then, all that’s left to do is firm up the details!
Obviously, depending on the meeting planner and event in question, these details will vary. However, there are a handful of things you can gather and brand ahead of time into a “speaker kit” for future events. Below are the materials we hear requested most frequently at SpeakerFlow. 👇
- Speaker introduction (to open for you at the event)
- Speaker biography (long and short versions)
- Approved photography and headshots
- List of audio and visual requirements (a wireless microphone or a laptop, for example)
- List of program titles and descriptions
5. There aren’t clear lines of communication between you and the meeting planner.
Finally, underlying all of these reasons meeting planners don’t hire speakers is, simply, communication. I’ve mentioned it a few times already, but it’s no secret that the more easily meeting planners can reach you, the more likely they are to book you. This is partly because, by answering their calls or emails quickly, you make it easier for them to efficiently plan their event. You also show them that they’re a priority and you respect their time and financial investment. Plus, the more clearly you communicate, the more meeting planners will see your value, book you for their event, and leave you with a glowing testimonial at the end. Win, win, win!
In the end, this list of “don’t”s is just a starting point, when it comes to troubleshooting your sales process. Because it involves a bunch of moving parts, when you lose a sale, the reason can come from any number of places, such as an email you missed because it went to spam or a selling point you missed because you were nervous about the “money conversation”. In your own speaking business, the most important thing to remember is to be open-minded. A healthy level of self-criticism and analysis – in your systems, day-to-day processes, or sales tactics – is the only way to ensure you’re consistently improving and more frequently getting meeting planners to say, “How can I hire you right this second?”.
For more information about selling your services, as a professional speaker, check out our ultimate sales guide! Additionally, for tools and systems to support your sales process, visit our CRM and Intel Engine pages, and learn how you can more effectively close speaking engagements with the help of technology. 👍