Turn your speaker’s lounge inside out.

May 19, 2011

I do a lot of professional speaking, many of them smaller conferences that don’t have big budgets (I’m always a sucker for the little guy). But, even when small, almost all of these events have some variation of a speaker’s lounge, with refreshments, snacks, couches, tables, etc.

Well, usually I drop into the lounge, grab my badge and speaker information, double check that there isn’t anything needed from me, nod a quick hello to a few speakers, thank the staff and then…head straight to the hallways, breakout rooms and other areas where delegates congregate.

I always appreciate the kindness of the organizers for providing this little area of respite – and I usually go there for a drink or nourishment – but I’ve been wondering if maybe we couldn’t redesign the format of a speaker’s lounge.

A lot of discussions I’ve had with speakers lately leave me feeling like their self-perception is that of being a master thespian or some type of celebrity, snubbing interactions with attendees as if they were above that type of activity. So odd for such a generally social group of people!

Frankly, I’m not buying it. Unless the speaker is an actual celebrity with the sole purpose of entertaining the audience…shouldn’t they be mingling with the crowds to learn more about how they can infuse a personal, customized touch into their presentation? Shouldn’t they be networking and learning from the people around them – like any other attendee?

I think more speaker lounges should have open areas where speakers are encouraged to have conversations with delegates, record promotional videos, provide streaming interviews and generally just share their influence and knowledge with the rest of the people involved with that event. For those small conferences I mentioned, maybe this could even save some money/resources?

Because, last time I checked, $20,000 per hour was probably at the top of the earning charts. Maybe we could start reaping greater returns and encourage speakers to become pre-event promotional reps, onsite consultants and community leaders…rather than supporting the opportunities to hide behind pipe and drape, like some Hollywood starlet needing protection from the paparazzi.