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Finding Speakers to Present at Your Event

A few ideas to help you keep your stress low and your speaker confirmations flowing.

Helping to organize a meetup group can be extremely rewarding. I’ve been running various groups for over 10 years now and I only regret not getting starting sooner. Still, there is not much to love in the minutia of monthly tasks to keep everything going.

One of the most anxious tasks you’ll face is, how do you find speakers for the next event? This can be particularly stressful since it’s something that you can’t accomplish completely by yourself and getting commitment on something from another person is always a little bit harder. Here are a few ideas to help you keep your stress low and your speaker confirmations flowing.

Reach out to Group Regulars

The first source of speakers is usually the group itself. If you are keeping connected with your members as recommended in How to Brainstorm Presentation Topics for Your Events, you should be aware of what people are working on and if it would be a good match for a presentation. Do not wait for people to come to you, you need to reach out to them, and repetitively. Do it so much so as to be comical about it.

Explain the Benefits

Public speaking and selling one’s ideas is a priceless skill that comes into play for almost all careers. Speaking at a local group is great practice for people who are new to speaking or who want to try out a potential conference talk in front of real people.

Host Multiple Talks Formats

One idea that can help attract even the more shy potential speaker is to lower the barrier to entry. In addition to full 30-60 minute talks why not accept shorter 5-10 minute lightning talks or even more simple project show and tells. Having these smaller presentations can help ease the stress of presenting for someone new.

Offer to Help Them

I highly recommend speakers practice their talk before presenting to a group. It can really help to also record this practice. As they go back and watch the recording they’ll usually find lots things that can be improved. If the recording is made in advance enough you as the group organizer can also offer to watch it and provide feedback.

Recruit Speakers Who Have Presented at Recent Events or Conferences

If someone has done a presentation once, it’s usually much easier to present it a second time. Take advantage of this and browse other meetups or conferences in your area or even outside of your area (since many meetups are virtual these days) and ask recent presenters if they might be interested in doing a presentation for your group.

Post Speaker Openings on Your Social Media Accounts and Blogs

In addition to using social channels to help spread the word about the speaker openings it’s also a great subtext for reminding people of the group existence (so they may attend) as well as your efforts into helping to run the group.

Reach Out Months in Advance

It’s much easier to get someone to agree to do a talk in three months away than three weeks away. Once they are signed up, most people benefit from the friendly social guilt of doing the talk. We all need a little push sometimes.

When They Say Yes…

If someone shows interest in speaking, have them fill out a form to get the conversation started. I’ve included some recommended questions you might want to use as a starting point.

Sample Speaker Submission Form Questions

  • Full Name
  • Email
  • Phone (for emergencies)
  • Presentation Title
  • Presentation Summary
  • A Short Personal Bio
  • Expected Length
  • At what upcoming group event would you like to present?
  • Have you ever given this talk before?
  • Has this talk (or others) ever been published online? Please provide URLs.

Being the Backup, Doing a Talk Yourself

No doubt, particularly in the beginning of a groups existence, you might have to do a few talks yourself. You want to limit this and get others involved ASAP but I would much rather favor you doing a talk than to cancel a monthly event. Consistency is extremely important to the heartbeat of a group.

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Thanks for reading!

Hi! My name is Mike Zornek and I'm a fellow meetup organizer from Philadelphia, PA. I have a long history of both participating in and helping to run meetup groups.

Guildflow is my attempt to push the industry forward and directly help meetup groups be successful. This site has a growing collection of articles and resources for meetup organizers.

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I love meeting and hearing from other meetup organizers. Don't be shy. Reach out or following me @zorn on Twitter / @zorn on Micro.Blog