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The July 24, 2006 issue of Fortune, featuring ...via Wikipedia

In most cases, you want to achieve something by inviting a speaker. Those targets might be rather diverse. For an incentive tour it might be ok to entertain people, but when for example a speaker is delivering a key-note speech at a dinner of the visiting board of a Fortune-500 company, the task might be less entertaining.

Both kinds of assignments can be tough to fulfill. Explaining China to an audience that has little clue about the country is, speakers tell me, often harder than addressing an audience that has already a background in China or in an industry where you can relate to. But it is very important to set clear, rather measurable goals.

Measuring the success of a speakers is already tough, and since we can seldom attend a event in person, we have to rely on feedback from both our speakers and clients. Those tidbits of information are very valuable for us, and help us to become better in making matches between the expectations of our clients, and what our speakers can deliver.

It does not always help.

An interesting moment was when a middle-sized company asked us for a speaker on innovation in China for an internal conference for their managers in China. It had to be somebody who would turn the heads of those attending the conference. We thought we were up to the challenge: we have some pretty famous people in our portfolio-

We came with quite a lot of suggestions for speakers that would for sure turn the heads of the Chinese managers of this European company, but then we met a problem: the mainly foreign decision makers did not knew any of our famous speakers. The Chinese employees who were part of the decision making process were very enthusiastic when we discussed our proposals with them, but they did not call the shots and were actually not willing to challenge the opinions of their foreign bosses.

That selection failed, because we were unable to explain that the target that was set initially was very hard to achieve in a multicultural setting: very few celebrities in China are known outside China.

I’m not sure whether our client has draw the same conclusions, but for us this was a good lesson in setting sensible targets.

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