On hiring a host

I love hosting events. Be they awards, conferences, away days or executive meetings. I have worked with some amazing clients over the years. 
I probably get about fifty requests a year to host events for corporate and non profit clients. Some are regulars, but to be honest most don’t have a clue as to what goes into being a host and why those who take our craft extremely seriously charge the way we do. Of the fifty or so requests I probably end up hosting ten or so. I will explain why.

So from the get go, I am going to do what most people don’t do and tell you my day rate is as a host. My rate is between £2500–4000 per day, depending on what you want for the event and the level of involvement and complexity. At the top end this day rate includes coming in from inception and working with you on the narrative of your event and will probably include a speech by myself and/or coaching for members of the event time who want to present better. The bottom end is a simpler but still ongoing process to make sure my role as a host makes you, the client, look good.

Some people look at a pricing structure like this and will spit out their tea. Other hosts I know, who have a modicum of fame because they are comedians, TV presenters, etc. will ask, “Is that all?”. Most entertainment provided at major events, depending on their notoriety, will charge £5,000 per hour, and that’s without expenses. I know of a number of conferences/awards where they have paid £25,000 for “celebrity” speakers who have missed the mark with bad humour (really inappropriate) and a disdain for the audience they are supposed to be entertaining, but hey that’s for another thread. Just putting it out there for people to know.

From the get go, I will also say I have hosted some conferences where the fee has been waived by myself in exchange for access to mailing lists and other equivalent added values services to cover my fee, but those are the rare exception and definitely not the rule. I don’t EVER do anything if an event organiser says to me “It will give you good exposure”.

So let’s take a typical example of what might happen when say planning a special event with a client.

If I, or others of this ilk, are brought into host an event, there are number of things that have to be taken into consideration.

Who is the audience?
What is the point of the event you are hosting?
What do you want the host (or facilitator) to do?
Are there specific issues that need to be avoided?
Do you want your host to be funny as well as informed on the industry award? (A balance hardly acheieved in business awards from experience)
Are there any inside jokes or humour that can be used to connect with the audience?

This involves meetings. Sitting down with you as the client to identify what those specific outcomes will be and realising that as the host, you carry the weight of the organisation to get things right on the day. Being able to throw around ideas of best and worse case scenarios for the event. Also being able to meet up afterwards as a follow up to ensure that the aims of said event were met, what lessons can be learned from shortcomings and what can be done to make it even better in the future. This part for me is one of the most pivotal element of a good hosting/facilitator agreement.

In the main Award events are the easiest event to do this with but so many organisations miss the mark on this when it comes to conferences and executive away days or meetings.

Let’s start with conferences.

People pay good money to go to conferences. Sponsors pay a healthy amount to be represented either in the material (brochures, banners, ads, etc) or in visible stands at the event. A skilled host will work with a conference organiser to ensure that people who are investing in said conferences get good bang for their book. This involves connecting with panellists, speakers and other entertainers to get background, ensure correct pronunciation of names. It is the host’s duty to thread a healthy narrative through the conference, whether it is one or multiple days, and that they remain energised throughout. Understanding both internal and external cultural references. This is not something you just turn up on the day and hope all is well with. It takes proper planning and experience.

A good host also understands the power of a good audio visual team. Working with them to ensure intros, slide decks, video content and any audio fills are done to near perfection. AV people are gods when it comes to conferences, and any good host worth their salt knows this and has a network chock full of said contacts. This is part of what you pay for.

Lastly let’s move to away days or executive meetings.

I love doing these. Not only because of the insight it gives into the way many organisations think (or not) but also it is a continuous way of improving facilitation skills. For the record there is a difference between facilitating and hosting, but for now let’s assume them as one of the same thing.

Whilst away days and executive meetings on paper can seem like ideal days for team building and connection, often there are implicit and explicit streams of conflict waiting to rear their head. A good host, especially one not emotionally invested in the company, can set an agenda, expectations and boundaries about how this narrative is shaped at said events and essentially allow for conflict but manage it in a safe and appropriate manner. We have toolkits to manage such behaviour and expectations!

In addition it is one thing to manage the conversation but it also helps when the host has a bit of insight into business and is au fait with terms around finance, operations, marketing or HR. Nothing worse than someone who is supposed to be guiding the conversation being totally unware of the language of the client.

So if you have an organisational event and require a host, this is why you end up paying a premium for a great host. Like most things that make your organisation great, hosting should be seen is an investment. Too many see it as a cost, and if that is the lens you see it through, then if you pay peanuts you will always get monkeys.

I am available for hire for conferences, award events and away days/executive meetings. Even if I am not the fit for your organisation I hope this article at least points out what you should expect in terms of time and value from a great host.

Every success.

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