Your Speaker Is a No-Show: What Do You Do?

One of the worst nightmares of any event planner is a speaker no-show, which leaves a gaping, unexpected hole in the agenda — especially when you lose a speaker on short notice. Losing a speaker is distressing and nerve wracking, but you can fill the void if you are resourceful. Check out some of these ideas that will turn a disruption into an opportunity:

Line up a TED Talk or online video on a relevant topic. There is a wealth of information available through the TED Talk site, and plenty of online videos to choose from on industry-related topics. Use your event’s online connection to pipe in a TED talk, drawing from the TED platform’s strong library.

Persuade volunteers to serve on a panel. Especially if you know the speakers and attendees well, consider rounding up a few thought leaders who might be willing to share their insights with meeting attendees. Because they won’t have material prepared for the session, use a panel format. The group setting will get the conversation started.

Transition the session into a networking opportunity. When you’re really at a loss to put on a presentation after a speaker no-show, turn that time period into a social event. Few attendees will ever complain about having more time break time.

Engage attendees with a quiz or game. Get the audience involved in the session by putting together an interactive challenge. Request that each attendee write down a question with the answer, then pick a few to share with everyone.

Arrange break out sessions for a round table discussion. If you have a large group expecting a presentation on a certain topic, break the audience up into separate groups for a round table conversation. They’ll most likely find the discussion valuable, since they get to hear from their colleagues.

Have you ever experienced a speaker no-show? How did you handle the situation? Please share your stories.

For a complimentary 30-minute consultation on how to build your brand and inspire an audience through events and communications, please contact Brian Duffy by calling 630.427.4235 or by emailing


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