Five Questions To Ask When Hiring A Speaker

Finding the right speaker for your meeting is important. The speakers set the tone for the entire event, and too often the keynoters and breakout speakers can leave the audience flat.

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There is an ongoing argument about “content vs style” when it comes to speakers. I think this is a bunch of baloney. It is not too much to ask for BOTH. I recently talked to a meeting planner who said she had instructed her to avoid “motivational” speakers, and instead only put “experts” on the stag She hated the mandate as she worried about getting blamed for a boring day.

Every speaker must be a motivational AND have expert content. There are plenty of people who can provide you with content and style… it is not an either / or situation.

During the planning stage it is easy to say you only want content, but when the audience is in the chairs they do not want an speaker who is just a talking spreadsheet. (This is true even at technical conferences. People are still people no matter what the subject matter).

What is the opposite of motivation? Lazy? Dull? Lethargic? Sluggish? Who would want a speaker on their stage who does not motivate, entertain and inspire an audience? A speaker who sucks the energy out of the room never makes anyone happy.

One client told me about the reviews of the previous year’s speaker were¬†“great content but I could have just read his white paper and saved myself an hour of pain”. Ouch. That is not the type of feedback you want after your conference.

When shopping for wireless speakers, there are a few things to watch out for to avoid unwanted surprises and to ensure that you are getting the best bang for the buck. I am going to give some guidelines to follow when choosing the perfect speaker.

Wireless speakers are tempting since they eliminate the speaker cable and do away with having an external amplifier. Just imagine setting up a pair of speakers at your patio in the blink of an eye without a big cable mess or sending music wireless throughout your home. Since wireless speakers have a built-in amplifier, they require power. Most models will plug into an outlet and thereby are able to offer medium to high power to drive the speaker elements. Some speakers come with rechargeable batteries. The plus side is that these can be placed anywhere even in places without a power outlet. The downside is that after each use these have to be recharged. Also, some models are fairly heavy making it hard to move them around. Batteries also tend to age and need to be replaced every so often.

The next thing to look at is the speaker construction and output power. If you are planning to set up the speaker in your kitchen, you obviously won’t need as much power as setting up a pair of speakers as wireless surround sound speakers in your home theater. If you are planning to use your speakers outdoors, be sure to pick speakers that have a waterproof or at least water resistant enclosure. Typically the manufacturer would state whether its speakers can be used as outdoor speakers.

Next, be sure that the transmitter unit can connect to the source audio that you want to drive your speakers with. Obviously the more audio inputs the transmitter has the better. If you want to connect your transmitter to your surround system, you may need speaker terminal inputs unless your surround equipment offers line level audio for your rear speakers. If you have an iPod or iPhone you may want to pick a transmitter with a built-in iPod cradle. Most transmitters will at least have a line-level audio input. Ideally the audio input can be adjusted in volume such that the transmitter can adapt to different audio sources.

Some of the latest wireless speakers use digital audio transmission typically either at 2.4 GHz or 5.8 GHz. These types of speakers eliminate the audio distortion and static that are inherent to speakers which use analog audio transmission, typically at 900 MHz. Another advantage of digital transmission is the higher robustness against interference from other transmitters such as cordless telephones which is important with the ever increasing number of wireless gadgets these days.

It is best to do a listening test regardless of whether you are buying a pair of regular or wireless speakers. However, if you cannot find a set of wireless speakers that sound just right, or if you already own a pair of speakers, why not make your existing speakers wireless by using a wireless speaker kit? These kits come with a transmitter and one or more wireless amplifiers which can connect directly to your existing speakers.

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