Several years ago, I was a closing speaker for a women's conference and the opening motivational speaker didn't show up. It's not that she had something better to do, but she had fallen ill.
Unfortunately, she waited too long to let the event planner know and two hours before her speech, they were scrambling to find a replacement. I was a five hour flight away.
Unable to find an alternative, they presented a yoga session which had only a handful of participants. Other than the tantalizing opportunity to sleep in, conference delegates were disappointed.
The opening motivational speaker sets the tone for the whole conference and a speaker who cancels (regardless of the reason) can sabotage an event and cause numbers to dwindle at future conferences.
Here are a few things to consider in case a guest speaker doesn't show up:
- Have a clause in the speaking contract that if the speaker is ill or has to cancel to give at least a 24-hour notice.
- Have the speaker call the organizer upon arrival to ensure she is on location the night before.
- Include a contractual clause that if the guest speaker is unable to make the event, the deposit will be refunded.
- Have a back up speaker in mind. Or see if the canceling speaker has an alternative recommendation. If not, contact a speakers bureau or a local NSA Chapter to find a replacement.
- Have a back up activity in the wings. If all else fails, have something energizing and engaging, an activity suitable for a general plenary session. Yoga does not cut it because many won't have the proper exercise attire or health disposition. See our leadership teambuilding activites for some specific ideas.
Ensure your events success
If the speaker for the women's conference had given more notice, the planning committee could have come up with several innovative options. Remember to plan for the unexpected, including a last minute program change.