What your program speakers need from you

June 1, 2001
Andy Farah

Pharmaceutical Representative

A speaker speaks out.

I have spoken at over 90 programs this year; some were continuing medical education lectures, some were round-table events, but most were dinner programs. I have been to some of the finest restaurants from Chicago to California, and I have enough frequent-flyer miles to travel round-trip to Outer Mongolia … first class … with an entourage of seven friends. But I had never stopped to consider what I required from the hosting reps until a rep asked me, "What do you need from me to make this program a success?" I was so impressed by her thoughtfulness that I stole the idea for this article.

First. Contact the docs and get a specific introduction sent to you. Speakers all have résumés, but sometimes it's hard to figure out what to read off the page of accomplishments and articles. It's best to read a card that is less formal, and hits all the points the doctor wants covered, particularly since we tend to know how to impress one another.

Second. Speakers need to travel with as little stress as possible. You want them showing up fresh and feeling energetic. Avoiding the Crown Room Club bar is the speaker's responsibility. Picking the speaker up at the gate is yours. If you can't meet the doc, get a colleague to meet him or her. Hotel shuttles and taxis in strange towns are often unreliable and uncomfortable. Speakers are grown-ups who know how to get around, but we need to be thinking about the message you want covered and the target audience who'll be there (info you will have provided to us well in advance, so that the talk meets your specific needs) - we don't need to be worried about the cab driver who's never heard of the restaurant where we hope to meet you.

Third. Leave the speaker your mobile phone number. If there are any problems, he or she needs to reach you right away, not the message center at your corporate HQ. It's a good idea to leave your partner's mobile number and the restaurant number, as well. Make sure you get the speaker's mobile phone number, too. I travel from the East Coast, so I usually change planes in Atlanta, Chicago or New York - where delays are standard, and should be expected. We need to be in touch - I think you all can recall a program you hosted when it was about five minutes until starting time, and your speaker hadn't arrived. Was he or she stranded somewhere, or just five minutes away? Neither of us needs this anxiety, so let's keep in touch.

Fourth. Don't make your speaker handle the audiovisual equipment. Three very good reps were socializing with the docs at my last dinner program while I set up the screen and projector and tested them out. I really didn't mind doing it, but a few of my more acclaimed colleagues consider this job beneath them, and would be less-than-positive in attitude when the time to speak arrived. As for the best use of my time, it would have been more effective for me to do the socializing with the docs and answer specific questions about the drug prior to the talk. Also, make sure the projector has a spare bulb, and if your program is high-tech, make sure you or someone else there understands the equipment. Often it pays to have an AV company worry about these things, while you and I worry about making the talk a success.

Fifth. Help your speaker remember some of the specific questions. Often a rep will ask me to cover a particular concern or topic, and I get so caught up in the presentation that I forget. (My talks are quite dynamic, and I often use multiple media, so it's not surprising that I get a bit distracted now and then). So raise your hand, and say "Dr. Farah, we were discussing the advantages of (your drug here) when used for (your concern here). Could you share that with the audience?"

Following these few basic tips can go a long way toward making your speaker happy and your speaking program a success. PR

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