An Answer to the Question of Professional Motivational Speaker Value
by John Di Frances
Since as far as I can tell, no other professional speakers have had the courage (probably in this case defined as a sufficient level of insanity) to weight in on the topic of Speaker / Value, I will be fool-hearty enough to do so. What is of most interest to me is that this same discussion is occurring among speakers, meeting professionals, association executives, education committees of professional groups, etc., with from what I can see, little solid resolution.
Today many professional associations in particular, are struggling to keep their members. Their annual and semi-annual meetings are frequently one of the major determinants as to whether members continue to renew and remain active with the organization. Although the speaker line-up is just a single aspect of that meeting, it is one of the most crucial factors having a direct impact upon the membership. Not too many years ago, many association annual meetings were little more than a thin disguise for travel, socializing and entertainment, all expense paid and tax free for many members. And into this mix was usually added the motivational / inspirational name speaker. After all, it was a natural fit. The main purpose of the meeting was feel-good. However, in almost all circles this has changed dramatically post - 9/11. Although the destination venue may still be a glamorous resort, the mindset is radically different.
Business today is just plain T-O-U-G-H in most industries and the meetings business clearly reflects this fact. Staff meeting professionals were cut right, left and center in the past few years and in some cases the blood-letting resulted in entire internal departments being outsourced. In addition, the corporate world simply has, in general, become very insensitive to its people. Post 9/11 job security fears have left many employers believing that they can continue pushing their people harder and harder, without any reinvestment in them. The reality of this has been evidenced by the continuously rising productivity levels in the U.S. since 2002. More work out of less people, has been the corporate mantra. However, recently productivity has begun falling. What many corporate moguls seem to have forgotten is that people can only be pushed so far and so long. One can only beat and undernourish the proverbial donkey for a finite period of time, to obtain more work out of it! Then even a donkey needs rest and to be fed a new diet.
Returning to associations, many of their members are fighting just to stay in business themselves and are therefore looking for answers, more than they are looking for a few extra days of “fun in the sun” each year at the annual meeting. And the answers they are seeking are not easy ones. Global competition has companies and even entire industries reeling. Therefore, when deciding whether to attend a national meeting, conference or convention, more often than not association members are asking a single pivitol question: Will it provide them new and valuable content and solutions.
Today, just as attendees are looking beyond the fun and vacation aspects of meetings, they are also desirous of more than purely motivational and inspirational speeches. Although it is still and always will be important for professional speakers to motivate and inspire attendees, they must do far more. They must impart knowledge in the form of vision, experience, solutions, tools, illustrations, examples and stories that enable the audience to return to their work significantly better equipped to deal with the daily complexities and decisions they will face, tomorrow, next week and next year.
The buzzword in business, and this clearly includes the meetings industry, is ROI, Return On Investment. This moniker is quickly becoming the prominent measure for all business activities and the basis for personal and corporate decision-making, including the decision to maintain membership and active participation in an association or whether a corporation should continuing holding a given meeting. Did the meeting result in practical learning that will make a tangible bottom line difference in the coming year? Meetings that focus not merely on content, but on new, creative, innovative, cutting-edge content, will continue to effectively serve their attendees and thus, will flourish.
Last fall or winter, I vaguely remember a discussion on the LIST wherein comments from representatives of speaker bureaus were posted and the comment was made to the effect that they are offering the same professional speakers to their clients as in the past, but the clients are saying they want something more, different and the bureaus do not understand what has changed or what it is their clients want. What has changed is that the economic free-ride of the 1990's is over, possibly forever. Business today is a fight at best and in many sectors, an all out brawl against new global competitors constantly popping out of the woodwork.
Whether it is an education meeting for the independent meeting professional like Gloria Nelson, who must pay for every nickel of it out of her own pocket, or the large corporate, association, or government agency meeting, someone, somewhere is now asking the ROI question. If the answer is fun, entertainment, motivation and inspiration alone, in most cases other than pure incentive trips, this will not cut it. If the answer is fun, entertainment, motivation, and inspiration along with real, solid, high content, high value learning and solutions, then the answer will continue to be a resounding Yes!
When my clients call, they want CONTENT. The fact that it must be delivered in a manner that is enjoyable for the audience, which does dramatically enhance learning and retention, is assumed, but it is clearly results that matter today. And not just results in the form of the impact of the speech today, but as Joan asked, regarding the real economic /productivity impact in the weeks and months that follow. Today, we live in a new world. In business, most of the soft and fuzzies are gone. Since 9/11 we have become a much harder, results oriented, ROI driven society in regard to business. It is unfortunate in some ways, but it will also make us economically stronger, IF WE DO NOT LOSE OUR VALUE SYSTEM ALONG THE WAY. We need to drive hard and demand results. We also need to remember to love people and use things, not the other way around!
Speaker / Value? You bet. Professional speakers must be held accountable for delivering real ROI benefits through new, creative, innovative, cutting-edge content, while at the same time motivating and inspiring their audience to effectively use the new tools imparted by the speaker to make an enduring positive difference in their life and work. That's called EMPOWERMENT, which is what I believe is the true calling of all professional speakers.
John Di Frances is a content rich Professional Motivational Speaker. His knowledge is based upon thirty years of executive experience and he understands the true meaning of value. John is an expert story teller. All of his presentations individually made to fit your corporation, association, or government needs. He has a tremendous talent of relating his heartfelt, meaningful, and sometimes humorous stories to real solutions, that will assist your company to becoming a legacy. Please continue to explore this web site or feel free to contact Di Frances & Associates to see how or services may help your organization.