Tight Budget, Boring Seminars

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“I’m up in arms, Azizi,” a fellow speaker told me the other day. (Though he is one of the top speakers in the whole country, he has to remain nameless. The reason so will be obvious as you will soon discover.)

“Why?” I asked him.

“This is the third time this month I got a request to speak.”

“That’s great.”

He shook his head, “No, it’s not great. All the invitations are for no fees.”

I raised my eyebrows.

“They want me to speak for free!” he explained further.

Then I understood his situation. A significant portion of speakers’ income is from speaking. So if they speak for free, their ncome will drop drastically. Which we have to admit that it is not a very desirable situation at all.

“I cannot understand some of the organizers,” he went on. “They would spend thousands on the venue, thousands on the materials and thousands on food. But they think paying the speakers as a sin.”

I could see that he was very agitated and so I allowed him to continue.

“They always said that their budget is limited but the function was held at a five star hotel. They always claim that they cannot pay the speaker as the event is for charity. But they would pay the hotel thousands of ringgit. Why don’t they ask the hotel to host the event for free as well?”

I knew exactly what he was talking about. Some organizers are like Uncle Scrooge when it comes to paying the speaker.

He continued, “Without sounding too boastful, the speakers are the attraction of the event. The participant did not come for the food or because the event was held at a prestigious hotel. They actually came to listen to the speakers. Full stop.”

“In other words, to have a successful and memorable event, one of the prime requirements is to have first rate speakers. And the only way the first rate speakers are going to come is by paying them their appropriate fees.”

I have to agree with him. Because they scrounge on paying the speakers, tightwad organizers often get second rate speakers or sometimes not even that. Their modus operandi is to contact an organization and request for someone to speak about a particular topic.

“We will not pay you but your organization will get tremendous exposure. We’re having over 500 delegates there. Imagine the business that is going to roll your way!” is a common line thrown by tightwad organizers.

Some organization fall for it and send whoever they can get their hands on. Now while the fall guy may be an expert on the subject matter, he is not a professional speaker. As a result, participants would doze off during his presentation. The speaker is quoting fabulous facts and figures – GNP, GDP, market share, etc., etc. – and the crowd is dozing. The venue may be great, the food may be excellent but as far as the participants are concerned, the event was a failure.

I have unfortunately been a participant in such events. The presentations were so boring that even the MC and the support staff lingered outside the room, looking at their watches. “When is this guy going to stop talking?” they were asking to each other!

A third of the original participants ran off to their toilets while one group that remained inside the room dozed off. And yet another group was drawing cartoons on their materials. Yes, it was that bad.

Now some people may say, “Hey, what we wanted is the content. Quality content.”

I agree. But why can’t we have quality content and an exciting presentation? We can have both, you know. There’s no law against having a fun time while learning useful things.

For example, I spoke at the Berita Harian Financial Planning Conference in Singapore last year. This is my fourth time speaking at the same event.

By the way, I’m the only speaker from the previous years was called back. I know why they called me back: I gave them what they wanted – useful information that could help them manage their money better and an electrifying performance.

But of course, despite the obvious advantages and the glaring benefits of paying for professional speakers, tightwad organizers will scrimp on the fees.

“Limited funds,” they would cry. “Tight budget.”

Yes. And boring seminars.

There’s a good thing that will come out of this though: If you ever have problem sleeping, just attend any of the seminars featuring no-name speakers – you will fall asleep!

Copyright © Azizi Ali 2009

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