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Choosing a Digital Strategy Speaker

Quite unfortunately, there are no shortage of people who claim to be experts in digital strategy, web, or social media.  How do you choose the best one for your conference, meeting, or virtual event?  The best way is to ask some questions – here are eight to get you started…

Ten questions for hiring a Digital Strategy Speaker:

1) How much do you really know about Digital Strategy? A tough question, but if the answer is read all of my books, review my (published) national research, and here are example consulting clients, then the person is probably an expert.  If the clients are just “speaking” clients, then they probably don’t have much depth.  (Feel free to read all eight of my books: they are designed for professionals, associations/not-for-profits, and businesses.  I’d be happy to share my list of digital consulting clients as well.)

2) What did you do before Digital?  How long ago was that? There are no shortage of “instant” digital or social media experts.  While they may be great salespeople, they certainly aren’t who you want in front of your audience.  They don’t have the depth, since expertise can only be learned over time.  (I started in this field in 1994, by putting several major market newspapers online, and have worked on 100+ projects since.)

3) What do you know beyond Social Media? Digital must achieve key business goals: conversion of a community to leads, member retention, recruitment, etc.  If the speaker only knows Social Media, then they won’t know how to connect it to other marketing and technology processes and systems, let alone corporate strategy.  (I have decades of advising senior leadership on digital strategy… and also implementing enterprise-scale web sites, marketing automation systems, and CRM.)

4) How involved are you personally in Digital? A speaker who is an expert in the area should also be using the tools.  If not, then whatever they say is probably just theory.  Pay particular attention to their blog, but also check them out on LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, etc.  Google them, and see how often they come up, and where they appear.  (I have 600+ thoughtful blog posts, and over 180 video interviews syndicated across the web.  My national Social Media benchmarking research has been used by 100’s of organizations.  And check out my LinkedIn profile, my website, my Amazon author profile, and Google…)

5) Are you a professional member of either NSA (for US-based speakers) or CAPS (for Canada-based speakers)? NSA or CAPS membership means a commitment to professional development, communications excellence, and a commitment to following a code of ethics. But beyond membership, has the speaker been awarded the CSP – Certified Speaking Professional designation? This is the highest earned designation awarded by the National Speakers Association to recognize proven expertise and experience; less than 10% of the world’s professional speakers have it.  (I have been a member of CAPS for a number of years, and have served both on the National Board and as the 2010 Toronto Chapter President.  And yes, I have a CSP.)

6) Who are your presentations targeted to? Just about anyone can get up in front of a crowd and describe LinkedIn or Facebook, but the vast majority of audiences already know the basics. A true expert adds specificity:  their presentations are targeted at specific industries or functional areas to achieve a specific goal.  (My presentations – and my books – do this. My “best” audience is at the board or senior management level.)

7) What research do you do prior to presenting? This separates those who work professionally from those who just “speak”. A huge amount of time must be spent beforehand to properly customize the presentation, so that the meeting objectives are met.   (Once engaged, I will ask that you fill out a detailed audience questionnaire; I would follow up with a series of interviews with representative audience members and senior managers.  I will read annual reports, product brochures, industry analysis, and any relevant internal documentation.  Finally, the presentation or facilitation will be completely customized, with relevant, up-to-date examples.  And then rehearsed.)

8) What do others say? Read through the speaker’s testimonials, and ask for the speaker’s “one-sheet” – their credentials.  Is their client list filled with credible names?  Finally, satisfy yourself with the speaker’s references, either through online testimonials, or by asking for the reference’s contact info.  (Check out my testimonial page, read more on my LinkedIn page, or ask me for references – very happy to help.)

9) How have you been recognized for your impact? Truly excellent speakers are recognized by their peers for the impact of their work at an industry level. Beyond certifications they may have earned, ask about their national-level awards (I have been made a Fellow of the management consulting profession (FCMC).  I have also been awarded the Griner award for my impact on the association/not-for-profit sector in Canada.)

8) Do you do virtual presentations? Good question, but consider going a bit deeper:  How many years, how many presentations, largest audience, studio set-up options, failover capability, etc.  (I’ve done 100’s of virtual presentations over the last 15 years – my largest audience was over 4000.  My virtual studio has gigabit connectivity, redundant connections, with multiple studio set-up options: talking head, standing keynote, boardroom meeting, etc.  And I am certified as a Virtual Presenter by eSpeakers.  Happy to discuss the pros and cons of alternative platforms, formats, etc – I’ve worked with just about everything.)


Randall has been advising on Digital Strategy since 1994 when he put the Toronto Star online, the Globe and Mail's GlobeInvestor/Globefund, several financial institutions, and about 100+ other major organizations. He is the author of eight books, including Digital Transformation for Associations, the Everything Guide to Starting an Online Business, and Social Media for Business. He speaks and advises on Digital Transformation, Digital Trust, and Social Media. More at