Our World | On 27, Feb 2013
I’ll be honest with you, I am not that interested in celebrities (except possibly Daniel Craig – see Bond article for gushing admiration!). When water cooler conversations turn to reality TV or soap stars, I switch off. Though, judging by the sales of Hello and OK magazines, (and some colleagues) I’m in a minority. Recently I was on site at two very different events and, although at opposite ends of the spectrum, they had one thing in common; the use of celebrity speakers.
In our 2012 METRIC survey we asked whether celebrity speakers were important to an event’s success. Over 54% of respondents claimed they weren’t and only 40% said they were relevant. Yet celebrity speakers can command a hefty chunk of an event budget for, in some cases, limited stage time. I’ve always been sceptical about the value a famous face adds but I’m changing my mind. The two events I helped on brought me into contact with the “talent” and while in each case they were charming and easy going, the reaction of the audience did take me by surprise. Boy, do they love a celebrity!
In some cases their admiration is justified. When Jessica Ennis walked on stage to talk about success to hundreds of sales people and present their top achievers’ trophies, smiling next to them for a photo, I get it. You cannot fail to admire the hard work, talent and sheer determination that got her to the top; her relevance to the audience is clear. Who wouldn’t want to see their work achievements recognised alongside an Olympic gold medalist? Likewise, when Mayor Rudy Giuliani addresses your conference, you are going to take note of what a leader of that calibre has to say. You pay the big bucks they command because you expect them to inspire and motivate the audience. Where I struggled was with celebs booked for just being a celebrity rather than any connection with the subject or audience.
Fact, we live in a celebrity obsessed age. As Prince Harry said – everyone has a phone and every phone has a camera. This was certainly the case at the second client event when a hundred top achievers gathered in London for their awards’ ceremony and lunch. Hosting a bit of cookery fun over lunch and giving a short talk was a TV presenter / celebrity chef. A nice chap who signed copies of his book and spoke briefly about his life and work. However, the guests were then queuing up to say hello, get an autograph and, yes phone in hand, have a snap taken with their new BFF. I’m sure Facebook updates were being posted like mad.
So, do these celebs add value? Well I still think you have to define “celeb” but I’d have to say yes. Not just from conferring status by association, but also by just sprinkling a little show biz glamour, that adds to the overall experience. There are arguments to be had about people remembering the celebrity rather than the message but having seen audience reaction first hand to both types of celebrity inclusion, I’m inclined to think they can be worth the investment.