Thursday, December 10, 2009

How We Choose Speakers for Our Conferences

We get a lot of calls and e-mails asking how we choose speakers for events such as the Nantucket Conference, Convergence, and Future Forward.

Here are three of the most common questions, with answers:

    1. How do I nominate someone to speak?

    Send an e-mail to the contact on any of our agenda pages (here's the page for Nantucket, as an example.) We usually like to see just a bio, a list of topics/themes the person is interested in, and, if you have one, a link to video of them speaking or participating on a panel.

    We very rarely invite anyone to give a keynote talk with slides; that just doesn't work for our audiences. Instead, we have a mix of panels, interactive workshops, debates, and "fireside chats," where a prominent speaker (say Google CEO Eric Schmidt, inventor Dean Kamen, or Genzyme CEO Henri Termeer) will take part in an on-stage interview.

    More and more, we are especially interested in speakers/presenters who can do interactive, workshop-type activities with our participants, as opposed to just sitting on a panel.

    2. How do you select speakers and topics?

    We work with the advisory board of each conference to figure out which speakers and topics would be most interesting to the participants. Often, we're selecting speakers because they are well-known, their companies have been successful (or have endured interesting challenges), we've seen them speak and know they're great, or they've been to the conference in the past and understand the general vibe and what we're trying to achieve. (The best way to describe that is unscripted, candid conversation, without PowerPoint slides.) Most of our agendas are filled by entrepreneurs, executives, and investors -- not consultants or service providers.

    3. How much does it cost to speak at one of your events? Do we have to be a sponsor?

    It has never occurred to us to charge anyone for a speaking slot, as some conferences do. All of our speakers get a full pass to the event, and all the associated meals and tchotchkes. And there's no requirement that you sponsor the event. (In turn, our sponsors are not guaranteed speaking slots or moderator positions.) Our goal is simply to have the most engaging and thoughtful people on stage at our events, and we try not to let anything stand in the way of that.

If you have other questions, feel free to post them here...

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