No speakers, no conferences. No one can argue against this, so it’s why I think speakers deserve more respect for their work. Don’t get me wrong, I had a lot of great experiences as a speaker, but I saw many situations that could have been avoided. In the end, it should lead to a better experiences for everyone: the speakers, the organizers, and the attendees.
I wrote a post on how to be a good attendee, now it’s about being a good organizer… Keep in mind that this post focuses on conferences, but everything applies to user groups or any other events with speakers.
Don’t extend your call for speakers
I planned my schedule to be sure I was able to submit my talks proposal before the deadline for your call for speakers. I don’t think it’s fair to extend that time because you didn’t get as many proposals as you wanted. I may have been able to do other important work if I had known that the deadline would be extended.
If you ask me to submit a talk, be consequent
If you took the time to ask me to submit a talk to your conference, it’s because you want me to speak at your event, no? First, be clear on what you are looking for exactly. If you don’t like the abstracts I submitted, let me know so we can work together to make it happens.
Select your speakers as soon as possible
Your call for speakers is done, it’s now time to select them. Even if we are super excited to go to your event, we can’t block our calendars ad vitam aeternam just for you! We have meetings, work to get done, other conferences, and a personal life. The sooner we know if we are accepted (or not), the better. Also, if I’m not selected, I may find other stuff or conferences to go to.
Don’t be afraid of local speakers
I see this too often now: conferences favour international speakers over local ones. As the conference become more popular or bigger, it’s seems more prestigious to do so. Don’t forget the people that were there since the beginning, if they are good speakers, of course. You also have some local superstars, why not add them to the schedule?
Promote your event in advance
I saw this too often with user groups: last minute organization, and promotion. Make the time, and effort from the speaker worth it, by making effort on your side to maximize their presence. You have a much higher chance to get a full room of attendees, if you start promoting the event at least one month before, than within the week before. There is nothing more annoying than speaking to an empty room.
Pay for travel, and expense
I won’t add more meat to this point as it speaks for itself, and Remy Sharp did a great blog post on the topic. My friend Christian Heilmann too did a great post about speaking is sponsoring your event. Even better, why not pay the speaker for their time? In the end, would you work for free?
Don’t offer sponsored speaking slot
I know, you need to find sources of revenue, but giving a speaking slot to someone who pay for it, means you don’t value your audience. Isn’t it your role to be sure your attendees will have the best speakers with the more interesting topics out there? Select the speakers because of their talent, and/or the topics they will talk about, not the money they are willing to pay. With a policy like that you are more likely to get better speakers as potential sponsors need to pick them by talent, not just because they are available.
I won’t do an in, and out
When I’m going to your conference, it’s to speak, but also to learn from others, and most important of all, to network. You should expect every speaker to be present before and after their talk. If you pay for my travel, and expense, don’t do it only for the day I’m speaking: I’ll be there for the whole conference. I would also appreciate that you get me in one day before so I can catch up with jet lag if it’s in a different timezone.
Give time between presentations to test my material, and computer setup
You may have a testing session the day before or in the morning, but there is nothing like testing right before your talk. I need time to plug my computer, test my remote, do an audio test, check my slides from the back of the room… A lot of things may have changed between the testing session, and the time of my talk. If there is any problem, we’ll have time to fix it.
Respect my time on stage
If you gave me one hour for my presentation, don’t tell, for any reason, that I only have thirty minutes now. As a professional speaker, I built my materials just for your audience, and to get the most out of the time I’ll have. It’s not easy to change my content like that. Also, be sure that the previous speaker finishes on time and don’t cut me off before I finished my talk.
Follow-up with your speakers
The conference is done; you are all tired, I know it’s a lot of work, I organized many events, user groups, and conferences. I still think it’s not done yet: take the time to follow up with your speakers. Thank them for their work, share the feedback you got, and let them know if you want them to be there next edition.
Again, all these points came back to one simple rule: respect your speakers.