Event Speakers: Finding the Right Ones for Your Events and Meetings

Mollie Plotkin-GroupPodcast speakers: Savannah McIntosh (Purplepass Marketing Director) and Mollie Plotkin (founder and owner of The Mollie Plotkin Group). Jump to the show notes below. 


The EventBuzz podcast: The Mollie Plotkin Group

presented by Purplepass


Show Notes

Topic markers:

04:50 - The benefits of having speakers at events (their value)

06:43 - What to look for when selecting speakers

07:48 - How far should you book speakers? 

09:00 - In-persn versus virtual speakers

14:22 - Following trends when booking speakers



The Mollie Plotkin Group

Mollie Plotkin Group on Linkedin

@MolliePlotkinGroup on Instagram






Podcast Transcript: Purplepass + Mollie Plotkin

Savannah (Purplepass):

We are back with another episode of The EventBuzz podcast presented by Purplepass. And today's industry professional is Mollie Plotkin. Mollie Plotkin has been working in the events industry for over 17 years as a keynote speaker agent, representing some of the biggest names in sports, media, business and entertainment.

In 2004, while looking for an agency who represented alumni athletes in her hometown of Philadelphia, she was shocked to learn there weren't any. The next day she changed that, within 18 months, she represented over 45 athletes in every coach in the NHL. Over the past few years, the Mollie Plotkin group has expanded to represent authors, thought leaders, cybersecurity experts, Navy SEALs, entertainers, and so much more. And that's just the beginning for Mollie. So let's welcome her to the show.

Hi, Mollie. Thanks for joining us today. We're so excited to have you on the show. How are you doing today?


Mollie Plotkin:

I am doing wonderful. Thank you so much for having me today.



I did want to start with kind of just getting into your story. I talked about it in the beginning of the show, basically, how you got started with the athletes? And the coaches, can you touch a little bit more on that and why you chose to represent them and what you're what you're doing today?



Surely. So as I told the story numerous times, it's crazy. But true. I was helping someone wanting to put together an experience in the Philadelphia region, they wanted to thank their high net worth clients by doing something a little bit different. And that's something different was giving them the experience of getting to meet an alumni athlete or coach from the Philadelphia region.

If you know anything about Philadelphia, you know, we are a huge sports city. We love our sports, and we love our athletes. And when I started making some phone calls to find out who runs the agency where I could tap into a network, I was amazed that there wasn't one. So the truth is the very next day, I started an agency that did just that. My thought was that if I needed to be finding these people, other people probably did as well. So I started with representing one area sportscaster and within 18 months represented every coach in the NHL, as well as about 40 to 45 other athletes, coaches and sports casters around the United States.



And do you still work with athletes? Are you representing other people as well, like, you know, other types of speakers?



Yes. So we've always said that our stronghold is in the world of sports. And we're very passionate about the world of sports, the tools that are used to build a great team, and that an athlete uses to be the best at what they do, translates so easily to the private sector. It also translates to people's personal lives. So we do love the message that sports can bring to people.

But especially during the pandemic, over the last two years, we've greatly expanded who we represent. And it was simply because the need grew, people started coming to us, they wanted more thought leaders, they wanted authors, they wanted cybersecurity experts. I'm very lucky that I know a lot of fascinating people who do fascinating things. So because of that we've expanded into all kinds of areas, including entertainment.



And so essentially, you guys help connect these event planners or people that are trying to bring on motivational speakers, you kind of connect them with the speakers, correct?



We do. And what we always say is, you know, we're an agency, we're not a bureau. And one thing that really sets us apart is that we only represent people that we know. And we feel very, very, very strongly about that. Because if you are an event planner, you are putting a lot of trust in the person that you're working with that person like myself. Because we're telling you that yes, the keynote speaker, the motivational speaker, the person you want to come out and be introduced to your crowd is worth their clients investment. And that audience's time. So we've always felt you can't properly sell a product unless you know the product. And our product happens to be keynote speakers, athletes, thought leaders.



And so for event planners that might be interested in bringing in a keynote speaker, you know, might be on the fence. What would you say like the benefits or the value is that a speaker really brings to an event or brings to the public?



I think what works best is to quote one of my speakers, Kevin Riley, who says if you want someone to hear your message, sometimes you need to whisper in someone else's ear. Meaning your CEO, your team leader, your executive, the person who's the head of the department, they might be telling their team something. But sometimes hearing that message from someone who has different experiences, who may be looking at it from a different perspective, will often resonate more with the audience. So what I say to people who are wondering if they want to bring in a keynote speaker, when you find the perfect keynote speaker, they are setting the tone for your entire meeting. So whether it be inspiring them from the beginning of the day, or wrapping it all together, to closing out a full day of conferences, they really set the tone.



Yeah, I agree. And the really good ones, it's just a powerful if you have a really confident speaker that is charismatic, and you know, does a great job, they will stay with you even after the meeting and after the event. And it will stick with you. 



And there is nothing worse than a horrible keynote speaker. Everyone has those experiences. And what breaks my heart is that that is completely avoidable. By working as a team with the agent who's going to be representing the keynote speakers, that can be avoided, because really, everyone has a story of someone being excited because someone had to have this person at their meeting. And that person was a complete bust.



Do you have any tips or suggestions when it comes to like, you know, knowing who is right for your event, what to look for, when you are looking at different speakers?



Yes. So one thing I always recommend is, you know, trust the agency that you're working with, get to know them, bring them in as your partner, we all want to create a successful event. And by working together, we could absolutely do that. And what I mean by that is, our best scenarios are when a meeting planner reaches out to us, and is able to say, okay, let's work together. We asked some questions. Tell me more about your audience. Tell me about your hiring client. Tell me what your audience looks like. We need demographics, ages, length of service in the industry, why are you all coming together?

When we start to have the answers to those questions that really helps us come up with a profile of what they're looking for? Who's going to resonate with that crowd and connect with them? Because it really is all about the connections.



Yes, exactly. And how far in advance you What do you suggest kind of doing this, whether it's connecting with you guys and starting this process?



Really, I say, six months is probably the sweet spot. COVID really, really changed a lot for us. We used to book a lot 10 to 11 months out. So for example, an association holds a large meeting, they do it every year. As soon as that meeting closes four to five weeks later, they're ready to plan next year, and they want to lock in their keynote speaker.

Well, with COVID, things often went from 11 months to 11 hours, you know, we've decided we're going to have a meeting, it's going to be tomorrow, who can you find us? So that really changed a lot. But really I say if you construct a big get some thought three to six months is a really, really great time.



Okay, and what about when it comes to virtual events since COVID, again, has made that such a huge thing, especially for speakers and meetings. Do you suggest, again, when you're looking at those speakers, would you, do you want someone that has virtual appearance and speaking experience? Or do you think someone that has in person experiences just as qualified? Or how do you kind of recommend versus the different two events.



I have to be honest, live and virtual are not created equally. And it's really important that the hiring party, the the meeting planner, the conference planner, whomever I'm working with, understand that not everyone has that ability to present through that little teeny camera on the top of your laptop and be as engaging as they do in a live audience.

So it's really important that the person you're working with, like myself, is very, very honest about that. Because for a lot of people, they gate as a keynote speaker, they gain their strength by the feel of the audience. So the energy that's coming off the reaction to a joke or a comment or body language. We lose that when we do it virtually. But there are many speakers that excel virtually and I always use Rob Paler as an example. He's 25 years old. He's one of my most sought after keynote speakers and he has a gift of being able to emote and communicate through a laptop, whereas some of you know great keynote speakers just don't?



Yeah. I mean, I totally, I totally understand that. And that's why I asked because we have so many more virtual events. But at least for me as like, from an audience perspective, it is a lot harder to connect with speakers, online, versus in person where you just really feel that connection. But then I know it's different for other people that really enjoy virtual meetings and webinars and speakers.

So everyone, everyone's different, but I figured it would, you'd kind of want to look, you would know, like a different type of speaker to go for when it comes to virtual and in person.



You do. And one thing I also suggest is, you have to kind of pull back and have a little bit of common sense as well, at times when it comes to virtual people might be useful keynote that lasts 40 minutes. And then as followed by maybe 20 minutes, q&a. Listening to someone for 40 minutes on a webinar is a really long time. Think of the most fascinating person you've listened to, and then still say, can I sit still, for 40 minutes at my dining room table, looking at my laptop, listening to them.

There is a formula and we're big believers in breaking it up. So maybe a 20 minute keynote, followed by a breakout session by a q&a, and then a final five to 10 minutes of wrapping up the keynote. Break it up a little bit, make it interactive. And if you have a keynote, and you have a slot that it has to last for, let's say 35 minutes, 40 minutes, really recommend that there be an emcee as well, someone who could facilitate the conversation. We also see our people turning off their cameras, because that means they may not be listening anymore, and to be able to help keep the program moving as well.



Yeah, exactly. And now that we're, we're kind of to a point where events are going back to normal. And at least for us, we've definitely seen events, finally, going back to normal in person events. But even though we're at this point, do you are you still seeing a growing trend of speakers being requested for virtual events? Are you still seeing that rise? Or has it kind of leveled out within person?



Right now, we're just seeing a huge, huge demand for everything live. Everyone wants to gather, we're doing a tremendous amount events in the Orlando area. And when I talked to my meeting, and conference and convention planners down there, they are, you know, burning the candle at both ends to try to keep up with the demand.

We recently had a few events over in the UK, same thing. Everyone wants live, where we're seeing virtual, which I think is a wonderful option, if for no other reason than this one, it's great for your budget. If you need to bring someone in and you're doing a hybrid event, and you've got the tech already there, you've got a big screen, you're doing a big presentation, and you can stream someone in, it is a great way for you to access a speaker without having to fly them across the country, pay for a full day rate, typically virtual is going to come in about 70% of what a live keynote cost will be.

And that's that opens up the doors for a lot of people to be able to bring in a level of keynote speaker that in the past they may not have been able to afford.



Yes, I definitely agree. I think hybrid events are the best of both worlds and are really a great idea so that we can kind of include everyone, especially like you said, when it comes to budget and flexibility, you know, everyone can't make the in person event or find time to travel there and stuff. So I personally really like hybrid events so that you can do both.

And this. And this might be a little tricky of a question. But I wanted to kind of ask for like, if there's any current trends in the industry right now. And we might have already talked about them, or the world that we should be paying attention to when booking our speakers that might help us decide who to book?



Yes, actually, I was just writing an article someone had requested for me to write on that exact title. So I will tell you what we're seeing right now, yesterday alone, I had three calls come in, ironically, all for the same topic. And that is we haven't announced it to our employees yet, but we're planning on bringing one everyone back into the office. What can you do to help us and that I think for the next six months is going to be one of our strongest requests.

And that is, you know, people are used to working in their silo. They're used to working at the hours that they like they're used to working alone, they're used to working by just tapping in texting, chatting, whatever it might be with their co workers and getting their work done. And now all of a sudden, they have to work together again and we do a lot of team building. This is also where the world of sports comes in, is because they know what it's like to train by yourself but then to come together and work as a team. And that's exactly what corporate America is going to be facing in the next I would say, six to nine months.



Do you work just throughout the states or it sounds like you work worldwide.



We do. Again, we just got very lucky that we had networked and met some really wonderful people. In Europe in the UK, we now have probably about 12 athletes that we have recently signed, everyone from one of the most outstanding Formula One racers. We also have a gentleman named Neil Frenchie who has been is a Paralympian in the UK, Alain Goudsmet who is a Belgian coach. So he's done five Olympics. So we're very excited because you know, the messages that we help you bring to audiences really are universal.



Yes, exactly. And so we have a lot of people that use our platform that are also putting on events around the world, which is really cool to see. And if they wanted to reach out to you guys and kind of work with your agency to bring on a speaker, what would they need to do?



I always say it's that simple. Just reach out, send me an email, give us a phone call, someone of my agency looks very forward to learning more about the event that they're planning what their need is, and giving them very honest answers on how we can make it happen.



Awesome, that sounds good. Because I can see it being a really intimidating process, from an outsider's perspective, whether it's just finding that speaker, but then also there, I can imagine there's contracts involved and coordinating everything. So I can see an agency being really, really helpful.



Thank you. And there are there are, there's a lot involved. And the biggest is communicating a sense and level of trust. Because we absolutely are a business that is built on the foundation of meetings and event planners. So we really, really understand how they do their job, why they do their job and what it entails, for them to be good at it. And what they're often doing is they're tasked with coming up with a lot of information that then they have to digest sort through and then give to a decision maker.

And so working together, we really want to make sure that every name that we've given them, they can be confident that the person who's going to make the final decision is going to be thrilled that they reached out to us.



Yes, exactly. Okay. well, thank you again, so much for your time. And I know this is going to be valuable to a lot of our users. Like I said, again, we have event planners around the world. A lot of people that do conferences and webinars that utilize keynote speakers, because they are a really important element to a lot of different events.

If there was anything else you want to add before we go,



Oh, just that we don't we look forward to answering any questions from any of your listeners and we hope we have the opportunity to work together soon.

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