Every meeting planner has been there (and if you haven’t, count your lucky stars!) – a speaker has to cancel at the last minute! Freak snow-storms, delayed flights, illness or other calamities can keep your speakers away. When your speaker is a no-show, your delegates are looking to YOU to fill the newly created void.
If the speaker that had to cancel came to you through a speaker’s bureau, reach out to your contact. Often in these cases, they will work to find you a replacement speaker on short notice.
Leanne’s Note – Ensure the replacement speaker sent by the bureau still has a message that resonates with your programs’ goals and objectives. If you’re trying to find someone simply to fill a void and not necessarily add value to your overall plan, some of the ideas below may be a better fit for this emergency situation.
Failing a replacement speaker, here are some sure-fire ways to keep your program on track, and make your missing keynote speaker look like an opportunity versus a threat to your conference.
When Your Speaker is a N0-Show
- Create a panel discussion – your delegation is full of experts willing to share their knowledge and opinions! Look to those individuals to fill in for a panel discussion with a skilled moderator
Leanne’s Note – Plan for an impromptu panel discussion in advance of the conference! Ask panel experts and facilitator to be your “Plan B” and have questions sent to the panel in advance for prep. Your panel will look like it was always supposed to be a part of the program!
Leanne’s Note – This is a great format if you are missing a keynote speaker in your general session room!
- Create a networking opportunity – one of the main objectives of almost every conference or event is the opportunity to network with others. Turn your room into a networking lounge quickly by changing the seating arrangements and bringing the break food into the room.
- Create facilitated round tables – similar to idea #1, brainstorm some topics and facilitators in advance and quickly set up a facilitated round table room. Delegates can either “commit” to a table discussion, or move from table to table to hear and contribute to the topic at hand.
- Identify popular sessions and make room – there may not be a need to entertain your delegates with new programming if uber-strong programming already exists! If there are some popular sessions during the time-slot. Work with the hotel to reconfigure your room setups to allow for larger audiences and run with what you have!
- Identify popular sessions and repeat – if there is high demand for a session, and not enough room to accommodate, you can kindly ask that session speaker to do a repeat session during the empty timeslot.
The team at EventMB recently did a post a few years back asking us as event planners to even challenge the idea of having speakers at our events; its a fantastic read that you can find here.
While having your speakers show up is the stress-free route for your event, no one ever said being an #eventprofs was stress-free. By preparing for this potential outcome, you will reduce your stress and look like the superstar you are. Here’s to great events!
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