Conference Justice Files: The People v. Speaker Selection

Conference Justice FilesIn the conference justice system, the people (aka conference participants) are represented by two separate, yet equally important groups. The bloggers who investigate conferences and the District Attorneys who prosecute offending conference organizers. These are their stories.


123rd Precinct Interrogation Room, Brooklyn, NY

Investigating Blogger (IB): So let me get this straight. You issued a Call for Speakers with topics already established for your next annual conference 10 months from now. How did you come up with this list?

Conference Organizer (CO): We pulled feedback from last year's survey.

IB: How many attendees actually completed your survey?

CO: It varies, but we usually get a 10-12% response rate, give or take.

IB: What about the other 88%?

CO: They're not complaining.

IB: We see in your Call for Papers that you'd like to see speakers "think outside the box." What exactly do you mean by this? Can you give some examples?

CO: We prefer to leave that up to the speakers. They're all so different and we don't want to constrain them. We want this to be more organic. We did schedule a webinar to review our process with potential speakers.

IB: Yeah, we have transcripts of that session. For the first 53 minutes, you read through the Call for Papers document, verbatim. One slide had 17 bullets. We see a lot of bullets in our line of work, but this one takes the cake. For the last seven minutes, you opened the floor for Q&A. Only one person had a question and it was about when they would be notified of your decisions.

CO: Can you believe it? We actually finished five minutes ahead of schedule. We have this thing running very efficiently.

IB: What kind of compensation do you offer speakers?

CO: Compensation? You mean, like money? That's never been necessary. We have a choice crowd at our events and most speakers are happy to get a chance to address our audience. We do provide lunch, free Wi-Fi. Oh yeah, and a special ribbon on their nametag.

IB: How about training for your speakers?

CO: Again, we trust our speakers. We do ask that they submit their PowerPoint slides three weeks before the event.

IB: And then somebody reviews those slides and provides feedback?

CO: Not really, but it gives us just enough time to print three slides to a page for handouts.


Want conference speakers to raise their game? Show them the way by raising yours:

  • Invest time to reach out to your audience to learn more about what THEY want to see covered at your conferences. Go have some conversations.
  • Pay attention to how conference sessions are playing out. What's working? What's not? Let that inform topics, delivery formats and speaker choices.
  • Give participants and speakers a chance to co-create content.
  • Make learning sessions more interactive -- no more one-way lectures.
  • FREE is a slippery slope. Don't compromise on the most important deliverables at your conference: learning and networking. Make sure you're providing fair speaker compensation. This is no time for amateurs. Secure pros who can design and deliver dazzling sessions, customized to your audience and filled with moments where participants can interact with each other. After one cycle of this new and improved model, securing sponsors to underwrite speaker costs in the future will be a piece of cake.

To learn more about putting together exciting and innovative programs, read Survey: PowerPoint and the Gen Y Crowd and Repurpose Event Content to Build Your Search Engine Ranking. And don't miss Cvent's blogs for event professionals, where you'll be rewarded with new posts (and new ideas) daily: Strategic Meetings BlogHospitality Marketing BlogWeb Surveys Blog and Event Planning Blog.

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