4 Best Practices for Getting Presenters to Submit Their Materials

Published by Sean Lawler | Topics: Online Collection Systems

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When it comes to getting things done on time, it’s not easy. It’s in our nature to wait until the last minute to do even the most important things like Christmas shopping or doing our taxes. And, there are many things in life we commit to, yet don’t follow through on such as: helping people move, paying bills on time or just walking the dog. We’re human, what can you expect? Managing our schedules and prioritizing our daily tasks is something we all could do better.

That said, presenters face these same “on time” and “commitment” challenges when it comes to getting their materials completed and submitted to the program chair or person in charge of collecting speaker materials.

To help those involved with collecting speaker content, I thought I would revisit one of Omnipress’ most downloaded tip sheets, “Dear Speaker… How to Get Your Speakers to Submit Their Materials” that share four best practices.

Best Practice #1: Help Your Speakers Understand the Personal Benefits

Your volunteer contributors have the best intentions, but sometimes they forget the value of their contributions. Be sure to remind your presenters of this value by including these points into your initial correspondence to improve contributor buy-in.

  • Further Your Career – Getting published may help your career, and it helps build credibility among your peers. Many contributors find their participation leads to other professional opportunities, such as speaking engagements or consulting opportunities.
  • Prepare Yourself for the Presentation – By preparing a written document, you can organize what you want to communicate. Remember to practice to be smooth with your delivery and to stay within any time limits.
  • Help Your Audience – A written paper improves the comprehension of your information. Now your attendees can focus more on the content and less on copying slides. Remember – most people can absorb and remember about 15 percent of the spoken word.
  • Make a Lasting Contribution – Your info becomes a permanent part of the association body of knowledge.

Best Practice #2: Help Your Speakers Understand the Benefits for Your Association and Attendees

The people who volunteer to contribute their time and knowledge to your association value their membership and involvement. Let them know how much their written contributions will mean to their organization. Include something like this:

We need your help! Our association and our attendees will benefit greatly from your contributions. Getting your material in on time will…

  • Help our association meet a fundamental principle: to educate our members with the best info in the industry.
  • Help us create a more meaningful learning and reference publication.
  • Add to the perceived value of the conference experience.
  • Excite new members to join and existing members to renew, since we can use leftover copies of the publication to reinforce retention and recruitment.
  • Encourage attendees to join us at the next event because they can see the quality of our education.
  • Assist attendees to comprehend all the material at an education-filled event.
  • Provide a great reference tool for future use.
  • Give attendees a better tool to choose the sessions they need to attend

Best Practice #3: Communicate Often and Stick to Deadlines

Sometimes getting tough is the only answer, but you can ease the process with great communication and incentives.

  • Send Plenty of Reminders – Your authors have busy lives in addition to their work as volunteers for your organization. Don’t be shy about letting them know your deadlines for material. Use a variety of communication methods: phone, email and written correspondence.
  • Be Tough – Consistency and firmness with the deadline is important. Speakers will take advantage if you let them, taking your focus and efforts from other important tasks. Speaker delays can cause shorter production timelines, expedited shipping and more money for you. History shows that speakers who don’t submit by the deadline never will – so waiting is often not worth the effort. Get an understanding of their commitment. The key question to ask is: “Are you submitting?” vs “When are you submitting?”
  • Offer Consequences – Let them know they will have to bring their own handouts in bulk at their expense or establish a policy that non-contributing speakers will not receive speaker fees or reimbursement for travel.
  • Offer Incentives – Let them know what they will receive if they get their material in on time.

Best Practice #4: Make Sure Leadership is Committed to the Content

Executive Directors, Conference Chairs and Session Chairs must be committed to the process of getting content in on time and be willing to help with contacting stragglers. Feel free to cut and paste these points into your event leadership orientation materials

Thank you for agreeing to be a (Conference Chair, Publications Chair, Session Chair, etc). Your help is needed to make sure our program is as complete and strong as possible. Here are a few reasons to make sure your speakers get their material in on time:

  • Excellent Sessions Reflect Well on You – Excellent sessions begin with good speakers and well prepared content. Your ability to instill a high level of professionalism to the content submission process will reflect well on you with better sessions and more satisfied attendees. Good performance with one event program often leads to more prominent opportunities.
  • Strong Leadership Raises the Bar – By making sure that contributing speakers understand the expectation of providing their content well prepared and on time only adds to the professionalism of the event you are running.
  • Staying on Schedule Saves Money – Last minute materials or making arrangements to print on-site or post online later end up hurting the program, frustrating attendees and costing your organization money. Save money by keeping everyone in the process committed to the deadlines.


About Sean Lawler

Sean is the Product Director of Digital Services here at Omnipress... handling their online abstract management/speaker file collection, digital publishing platforms, mobile event apps, and other digital media delivery. He understands technology very well, but can relate it to non-technical people better than most. ...read more

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July 9th, 2010Jeff Hurt says:

This is an interesting perspective from the meeting professional’s point of view. What about from the speaker’s point of view?

First, I would ask this pivotal question: Is information education? I submit that it is not. Information is facts and opinions. Education is an act or experience that has a formative effect on the mind, character or physical ability of an individual. Providing papers does not provide an education process. It provides information.

However, information has its value and is very important. It’s a great reference tool for learners to revisit after the conference.

My challenge with asking speakers to submit materials is whether the conference organizer is paying the speaker. If they are not paying the speaker, there is absolutely no incentive for the speaker to provide this extra material. It requires more work on the speaker’s part and he/she is doing the organization a favor by speaking for free. The standard one-hour presentation takes at a minimum three hours to design then another couple hours to create any visuals. And, asking for that material 30-60 days in advance is inappropriate.

So the consequences of putting pressure the speaker to provide the extra materials at an early date if not being paid is that I’ll say, sorry, I’m not going to speak for you for free.

At least that’s my experience.
Jeff Hurt recently posted..5 Reasons To Increase Your Online Exhibitor Presence

Twitter: JeffHurt


July 15th, 2010Chris Uschan says:

Jeff – Good question regarding the speaker’s point of view, but maybe the real question is “What about the attendee?” So let me pounce on the attendee perspective first and what I see (and feel) as an attendee.

1. A good educational session is hard to find – period. Banking on the education is not a talk or a document.
2. Good talkers are a crap shoot. We need stories and examples “we” attendees can relate to so that we can better understand our own issues and opportunities. Speakers reading from PPTs might as well stay home and send the slides via email.
3. I just paid $50 to $1000 – yes Jeff, I want something more than my notes on hotel notepads, but no, I don’t want those PPT’s 6-up printed so I can follow along. And, wifi is half-assed in most meeting locations so forget about on-site access. As well, I can’t take notes on PDFs and I am not printing the slides out in advance and bringing them because: (a) I typically cannot find them online and (b) I just paid $50 to $1000. Imagine if restaurants asked their patrons to bring their own napkins to save money?

What I would like is a meaningful takeaway, facts, references – and something on paper would be nice since I like to read (not on a computer) in the hall ways or on the plane. It keeps me engaged.

I guess this gets me excited to attend EventCamp – Twin Cites

Now — to the speakers. I first am wondering why they speak? To earn an income? To gain awareness about themselves or their company? To promote a book (income)? Why?

If they are paid, then yes, they should be required to produce something if the end result is meaningful and relevant to the type of session they speak at (a luncheon guest speaker… probably not).

If they are not paid, isn’t the speaker missing the point of marketing themselves by not leaving the targeted audience with yet another touch point (the handout)? This could be a chapter from their book, a white paper, a reference sheet and information about them and what they do. Here, the attendee gets something and so does the speaker (Okay, that’s the marketing in me talking).

I do agree that getting a presenter to submit content (not the ppt) 45 days in advance is ridiculous. Two weeks prior to the talk makes sense. It’s the conference organizers job to find a conference printing source that can turn around the materials fast and deliver them on time (eh hem – wink wink).

If they are not paid, why do some speakers still produce and bring handouts?

Jeff, thanks for your point of view and inspiring my POV and keep up the good reading at: http://jeffhurtblog.com

Twitter: chrisuschan


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