Welcome to “The Whisperers Weigh In”, a new series where we answer your questions about large-scale event production, navigating the world of event strategy, or just what a day in the life of an Event Whisperer is like. Do you have a question for the Event Whisperers? Contact us via our website and let The Whisperers Weigh In.

A few days ago, our featured experts, Lisa Holland, Bearer of Event Secrets and Jim Riela, Zen Master of Events debated whether or not to serve dinner in the exhibit hall of a trade show. And while our readers were equally split on whose answer they liked best, today Lisa and Jim tackle a couple of other common event planning conundrums: speaker agencies and cocktail hour.

Mark P., City Events: Do you prefer to work through a speaker agency or hire a speaker directly?

LisaI prefer working with a good speaker agency. In my experience, speakers tend to be highly successful and highly unique. They are experts in their field and charismatic interpersonal communicators, but those same personalities are not usually interested in the minutiae of event logistics and details. A good speaker agency knows their talent and will provide insight and direction as to how to get the best result from that speaker. They also ensure the contract is executed and fulfilled properly. Additionally, a good agency isn’t just there to book the speaker you asked for, but to bring potential speakers to you. They’re immersed in the industry every day and know who’s hot, who’s new, and where to find that special speaker you may not even have been aware of.

JimWorking with a speaker agency is very often the best choice. That being said, we’ve researched and engaged directly with speakers in the past that are not on the speaking circuit and have provided very meaningful and engaging content.  These may be individuals who are subject matter experts in the specific area aligning with the conference theme and/or and the attendee’s demographic. Examples might be a local nutritionist  that speaks to the local food offerings and eating well at work, or the local mayor who speaks to business development and giving back to the community. Bottomline, it’s important to build a relationship with a speaker agency, one that knows your business and the culture of your firm and attendees. But don’t forget to do your own research and see what brilliant and engaging speakers might captivate your audience- even though they may be off the radar of speaker bureaus.

Andrea S., Events with Andrea: How do you feel about complimentary cocktail hour vs. offering cocktails throughout the dinner? 

Complimentary cocktail hour, or cocktails throughout dinner? What do Jim and Lisa think?

Complimentary cocktail hour, or cocktails throughout dinner? What do Jim and Lisa think?

LisaI think complimentary cocktail hour is a must, along with complimentary wine with dinner. Above and beyond that I think it’s really a question of your audience and what their expectations are. What’s right for one audience isn’t for another, and really, the best events make the attendees feel cared for. The epic poet Homer wrote,  “a guest never forgets a host who treated him kindly,” over a thousand years ago, and truer words have never been spoken as to the secret to a successful event.

JimEveryone loves a complimentary cocktail hour – but really, don’t you want to change it up sometimes?   Nix the cocktail hour and orchestrate a “cocktail tasting” as part of the dinner experience, or serve different wines with each dinner course.  Re-appropriate the cocktail hour funds to truly enhance your dinner.  You may also have some money left over to offer an after party with liquor and coffee. Keep it fresh! An element of surprise makes for great table conversation and engagement.

What do you think?  Contact us via our website with your input, or if you have a question for the Event Whisperers to answer.  You can also find us on FacebookTwitter, and follow our adventures on Instagram