How We Solve a Speaker Crisis

Rob Newton 25 July 2018

The law of probability tells us that no matter how small the risk, there is still a chance something we don’t want to happen…will happen.

In the events industry we of course have become used to overcoming adversity. The one thing we cannot control is bad weather, which can cause major disruption, but we are constantly looking at weather forecasts (especially in the winter) so we can know in advance and plan alternative measures to look after our speakers.

Despite our best efforts here at Speakers Corner, there are circumstances that are beyond our control where a speaker is delayed enroute or occasionally can no longer attend due to illness or family emergencies.

When this happens, we see the true stars in our Logistics department shine through with serenity, and so as the event season takes a summer break we sat down with the team to share some strategies event organisers can deploy!

Ela, our Head of Logistics, talks us through the initial communication stage which first alerts us to a potential problem

The logistics team are the first point of contact as we are the ones working directly with our clients, building relationships and facilitating the smooth running of their events. If the speaker is delayed or unwell, we are the first to hear as we have a close dialogue with the speaker in the lead up to the event.

If a speaker is delayed, due to cancelled or delayed trains or fights our Logistics team come together to find the best and quickest solution to get our speaker to the event on time. We look at every possible route available be it rail, car, limobike, airplane, or private jet and book them on the next quickest (and affordable) available route. If there are any cars required, we re-schedule these too. Once we have our plan in place we contact the Client to assure them their speaker is on the way and what time they will be arriving.

In most situations we organise enough flexibility in our speaker’s travel to allow for minor delays. As all of our speakers arrive 30 minutes early (if not more!) this gives us a bit of extra flexibility. We cap our speakers travel to cover the worst case scenario, so if there are delays or cancellations we can book another mode of travel. If delays or cancellations are caused by the travel provider we are usually able to claim a refund, to allow us to cover the additional cost.

Helena, one of our longest-serving team members, adds

Speakers Corner have an out-of-office emergency hotline that runs 24 hours a day which allows speakers and clients to alert us to any delays or complications. We work on events across the globe and have on occasion been woken up in the early hours to come up with a solution. When a problem occurs, it is important that the speaker or client calls us so we are able to come up with an alternative way for the speaker to get to the event. If it is outside of business hours our on call person will contact the Logistics Coordinator and Account Manager (who made the initial booking). We can then support both the speaker and the client and keep the client up to date on the speaker’s ETA and manage the travel solution.

We asked Payal if we ever hear from an organiser that a speaker might be delayed?

There are times when an event organiser will call us because the speaker hasn’t arrived. Sometimes this is due to travel delays and we are able to come up with a solution to get the speaker to the event on time. Sometimes this means the speaker gets off the train and a car we have arranged picks them up to complete the journey. Thankfully, in most cases the speaker is already at the venue having a quiet coffee or sitting in the reception area reading the newspaper!

When we are informed a speaker has not arrived yet, we as a team work to contact the speaker. We phone the speaker and leave voicemail, text and email. We can even check local travel reports for delays and contact ground handlers if they are in a car. We don’t stop until we know where the speaker is and their ETA – even if they are just enjoying their latte quietly in reception!

The key lesson for any event organiser is to always know your speaker’s method of travel and itinerary. We always provide you with a call sheet which details your speaker’s travel so you are aware of where they are coming from and their expected time of arrival.

We once had a taxi driver stuck in traffic due to a car accident and they were not going to get to the speaker on time to take them to the venue. The logistics coordinator sprang in to action and ended up booking the speaker an Uber that was 5 minutes away from the speaker to get them to their event with plenty of time to spare.

Thankfully, in 99.9% of cases the speaker arrives with a smile on their face ready to deliver an amazing speech. But we wanted to find out a little more about what the worse-case scenario might be. Roma fills us in on our emergency action plan…

Of course, the worse-case scenario is a speaker dropping out due to illness or a family emergency. However, when this happens we work with our account management team to find an alternative replacement before contacting our client, ensuring we present them with a solution to the problem. The account management team look at alternatives that meet the original brief to ensure the replacement speaker delivers quality content for your audience. They will then reach out to let the client know of the circumstances and provide alternatives. Once the new speaker has confirmed the logistics team kick in to gear to rearrange travel for the new speaker.

We once had a speaker call us from an airport vomiting in the toilet telling us they couldn’t get on the plane. We were able to arrange a replacement speaker (from the same company!) and the logistics coordinate was able to rebook flights and get the replacement speaker on a last minute flight to Amsterdam the next morning and arrive just in time for a quick cup of tea before his speech.

Our newest team member, Sophie, wanted to add in some sound advice when it comes to booking travel.

Re-booking travel can be expensive at the last minute so we always try to ensure we book flexible tickets for rail or plane so there is a nominal fee for any changes.

Our capped expenses will usually cover any additional costs if we need to change travel plans. If expenses go over our capped amount, Speakers Corner will absorb this extra cost. If the event is outside of the UK we do not cap expenses as these will depend on when plane tickets are booked (as prices fluctuate). If the speaker is flying internationally we will advise the client of approximate costs for them to factor this in to their budget. Before booking flights we always speak to the client first to inform them of the final costs.

Ela ends our chat by summarising;

Our logistics team work to get your speaker to your event on time regardless of the problem. We have seen it all and are always up to the challenge to solve any last minute travel problems. We work side by side with our account management team to make certain your event goes off without a hitch, but we are always here when things go awry.

To book, or for more info. on any of our speakers, call us on +44 (0)20 7607 7070 or email us at .

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Speakers Corner (London) Ltd,
Ground and Lower Ground Floor,
5-6 Mallow Street,