9 Ways to Offer Extraordinary Hospitality to Guest Speakers at Your Next Event

Planning a well-executed event is all in the details. We all want to wow our guests — but at the end of the day, their experience of the event will be affected by comfort more than any other factor. No one wants to be stuck in endless lines for the restrooms, go without ample food options and water stations, listen to static and feedback through an AV system, or squirm all day in uncomfortable seating. The dazzling details are important, but so are the basic creature comforts we all crave. This principle is true for your attendees and your guest speakers!

If you’re planning or organizing an event, you’ve likely already set your sights on an impactful speaker who will leave their mark on your audience. Once you book them, it’s time to make sure they have an extraordinary experience at your event. When you learn how to welcome a guest speaker well, they’ll be comfortable at your event from beginning to end. And when keynote speakers and panelists are comfortable, they’ll achieve the audience engagement you hope for — which could ultimately lead to your speakers and your guests returning again and again! At the very least, you want your keynote guests to speak highly of your event long after it ends. Want to make a positive impact on your speakers? Extend extraordinary hospitality to them from the start. 

Before the Event

Finalize official details as soon as possible.

Once you’ve chosen and booked a guest speaker, jump into the details right away. From finalizing guest speaker accommodations to confirming their presentation details, give yourself a long lead time to avoid last minute scrambling or communication breakdowns. Your speaker will thank you for being on top of things — because providing these details helps them plan well, too.

Communicate clearly.

Sometimes, event planners don’t want to “bother” event speakers with communication, but it’s always better to provide clarity up front. You don’t need to communicate frequently to communicate well! Send your guest speakers or their representatives an email detailing the following: 

  • Lodging and transportation details
  • Provided meals and beverages
  • A detailed event schedule with relevant information highlighted
  • Speaker information – length of keynote, AV needs, audience info

Ask for their rider and preferences. 

Ask your speaker for their rider as soon as you can. Building a speaker requirements checklist allows you to not only meet their expectations, but to go above and beyond by providing an excellent experience tailored to their needs and preferences! If your speaker does not have a rider, or it’s minimal, follow up by asking for a few more details that allow you to give them an incredible experience at your event. 

Questions to ask your speaker: 

  • Do you have any dietary restrictions or beverage preferences? 
  • Will you need a resource table? (Relevant if your speaker has merchandise or books available for sale). 
  • Do you have a preference on room set up? (If your event space has the ability to accommodate various arrangements) 
  • Do you have promotional materials we can use to market our event? 
  • How would you like us to introduce you before you take the stage? 
  • Is there anything else we can do to help you before or during our event? 

Asking that last question gives speakers an opportunity to tell you how you can set them (and yourself!) up for success. Maybe they prefer a specific kind of tea before they speak, or perhaps they prefer to rent a car and drive themselves to the event for some quiet prep time, rather than you picking them up. These details allow you to go above and beyond in curating their experience!

Hire the right AV team. 

Audio and visual elements are foundational to any event. While most venues offer in-house AV support, it may be in your best interest to consider hiring an outside company instead. Consult with your speaker to find out their needs so that you can make the best decision. 

At Redstory, we’re committed to offering the highest standard of AV support. We have multiple mic options for speakers ready to go at all times to avoid real-time hiccups. We also provide caring, patient stage managers to calm speakers’ nerves, make sure they have everything they need, cue them to walk on stage at just the right time,  and celebrate them when they walk off stage. 

During the Event

Offer them a VIP pass. 

This is a commonly overlooked detail, but it’s one we highly recommend. Your guest speakers should have the highest level of access to your event for their convenience and privacy. Make sure to issue the kind of ticket or pass that allows them to step into the green room, quickly secure food and beverages, and avoid crowds whenever possible. 

Ensure they have the help they need.

Remember, guest speakers are not experts on the ins and outs of your event like you are. Don’t leave them alone to figure it out! Make sure you provide staffing to guide them from place to place, keep them from getting stuck in conversations with attendees, and support them backstage. Of course, provide them with any quiet time or space they need — but the last thing you want is for your guest speakers to feel unsupported.

Provide a detailed plan.

Even though your speaker received an event schedule ahead of time, it’s always good to provide an on-site refresher. Walk them through the schedule, noting any last minute changes and highlighting pieces that will be relevant for them.

Give them a good introduction. 

You will already have this information in hand, thanks to your pre-event communication, but it’s important to welcome your speaker with honor and celebration. Let your audience know how honored you are that they’ve chosen to partner with you for this event, and highlight any relevant information or accolades. 

After the Event

Ask for feedback. 

Many event planners do an excellent job providing for speakers and panelists leading up to the event — but after it ends, guests are left with crickets. Don’t forget to follow up with your speakers after the event concludes, both to thank them for joining you and to ask for their honest feedback! Opening a line of communication makes your keynote guests feel seen and supported, and therefore, more likely to return. As an added bonus, you may learn how to support speakers even better in the future! 

Send a gift. 

Don’t forget to provide a gift or token of appreciation to all of your speakers. You can give them a gift in person as the event wraps up or send it to them once they’re home, but it’s important to make them feel appreciated. If you’re stuck trying to find the perfect token ideas for panelists or speakers, refer back to your pre-event conversations! Check their rider or consult your notes about their preferences to find a gift that’s perfectly suited for them. 

The Trickle-Down Effect of Hospitality

When event planners go above and beyond to accommodate their speakers, everyone benefits. Speakers feel valued and welcomed by the organization, the audience enjoys a seamless experience, and event staff avoids facing confusion or difficult situations.

We’d love to help you plan and execute an experience that your attendees and speakers won't forget. Reach out to our team to get started.