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How Meeting Planners Drive Speakers Crazy

—Peggy Duncan

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I'm conducting seminars for meeting planners and sprinkle each session with things they do that drive speakers/trainers crazy. What has frustrated you in working with meeting planners?

Note: Due to the sensitive nature of the topic, I have not included names with the comments.

  • They send a blanket email message to all speakers reminding us to submit required information instead of only sending the message to people who have not complied. I use a checklist for each event and know precisely what I've already sent and when. People who don't work like I do will either reply to the email message asking what's missing, or they will send everything again.
  • Sending me a bunch of emails with info instead of doing a complete speaker packet with most of the info I'll need with deadlines.
  • Some seem to ignore all the pre-information I send, e.g., room layout, equipment needs, introduction, etc. I walk into the room and have to reset it, give them a copy of my intro, etc.
  • The vast majority of meeting planners I've worked with are very professional and appreciative. One thing that can be a problem is when they fail to provide me the things I need in order to do my program, e,g., provide a table for me to set up my display. I clearly outline what I need, in writing, in my confirmation letter. My biggest pet peeve is when someone cancels a booking. I work with a lot of schools, and they are notorious for canceling confirmed bookings! Apparently some teachers think that speaking is just a hobby. Happily these are rare events. More often than not things run smoothly.
  • Make significant errors with program descriptions and print them without giving speakers time to proof the work. Then apologize that it's too late to change it! I'm crazy about most of the planners I work with, but this has happened more than once and it makes me crazy in a different way!
  • They ask for, and I send, a speaker introduction. But too often by the time I'm stepping to the platform, they don't have it any more. So, my introduction totally falls flat and I have to toot my own horn to gain credibility. After getting burned on this a few times, I now email them a second introduction a day or two before my presentation and I carry one with me and ask them the day of whether they have it. If not, I give it to them then. Even if all they do is read it from the stage, it's better than stumbling around.
  • Superior attitude. (You arrange meetings, you are not God.)
  • Too little information provided about the event. (Speakers need to know details like: will participants be eating during this time? Is this event outside?)
  • Communication that conveys, "Don't bother me with so many questions. I'm busy."
  • Communication that implies, "You are an over-priced pain." In fact, speakers work very hard at what they do. Travel itself is enough to get paid for!
  • Going tilt and overreacting when they hear a tidbit of incomplete information that is, in fact, not true. (Please give the speaker the benefit of the doubt until you get all the facts.)
  • Being sloppy and unresponsive about finish-up details, payment, travel reimbursement, etc. (No check at event, yuck!) This puts the speaker in a very awkward position.
  • After a while, you learn to go with the flow in terms of things that can go wrong at a meeting. But what always gets me is when the contact or introducer decides to digress from the agreed-upon introduction and wax eloquent on the subject him/herself. The audience doesn't want to hear it, it eats into the speaker's time, and it often steps on what the speaker was going to say. Introducers need to learn that, like perfume or cologne, less is better in introductions.
  • My biggest frustration with meeting planners is that they call, very excited about booking me, ask me to hold the date, and never call back to release the date. If I receive another request for the date from another client and I call the meeting planner, they often don't remember holding the date or say, "Oh, the client chose another speaker a while back." I'm so frustrated with their lack of respect that I now don't even call the meeting planner back if I have another client asking for that date. My business philosophy now is first come, first served. Except for my best clients, the first client with a signed agreement gets the booking.
  • Here's one that shouldn't bother me so much...but does! I post my suggested introduction on my Web site. I send it out with the contract and other paperwork. We confirm the meeting planner has it in our pre-event conversation. Then, right after the sound check, the meeting planner looks at me and says, "What should we say for an introduction?" AAARRRRGGHH! Thanks for letting me vent!!
  • The worst thing a meeting planner can do is to change the length of your session without letting you know. My partner and I recently arrived at a conference to find that our 90-minute presentation had been shortened to an hour in the conference program. Luckily, we were there the night before the presentation, so we had time to make the necessary changes rather than trying to rush through the materials. The other thing that drives me crazy is for the meeting planner to "forget" something he or she has agreed to set up or bring. Even if I confirm the details, there have still been a few times when equipment or materials haven't shown up as planned. Since I know that meeting planners are exceptionally busy, and usually stressed during an event, I usually try to plan for contingencies, so there's no "emergency."
  • Meeting planners that add their own thoughts to my introduction without running them past me first. One of my signature stories has a surprise ending and a meeting planner who heard me before shared the story ending before I started! Yikes! Many have added how "hysterically funny she is" which raises the expectation bar to that of a stand-up comic, which I am not.

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