How to Find Conference and User Group Presenters
Date Published: 13 July 2011
If you’re a user group leader or event organizer and are looking for quality presenters for your event, here are some resources that should help get you started. This is not meant to be an all-inclusive or exhaustive list, of course, and to that end I fully expect that there will be great resources left as an exercise for you, the reader, to add via the comments. Thanks for Gerhard Weiss for giving me the initial idea to post this (some time ago, on a mailing list).
Know Thyself (and your past speakers)
If you’ve been running a group or event for some time, you already have relationships with many speakers and presenters. You also probably know which ones were best rated, were easiest to work with, were the most reliable, attracted the largest crowd, etc. When planning for the future, be sure to keep your past speakers in mind. This should be obvious, so I’m just throwing it in here at the top as a sort of ‘guard clause’ in case you’re not doing it, because you can pretty much stop reading now until you’ve done this step.
Organized Speaker Support Programs
There are a number of different speaker and user group support programs.
INETA is the first one that comes to mind for .NET user groups, and although they’re not as strong a force as they were a few years ago, they still have the contacts and connections you can use to find experienced presenters. You can search for speakers here.
Some of the component vendors also support speakers:
- Telerik Insiders – “an independent speakers program for the developer community”
- DevExpress Community Group Support – “you can count on DevExpress to offer support and contributions to help you deliver a successful and memorable event”
- Jetbrains Academy Experts – “a community of experts and evangelists to champion best development practices and promote software innovation worldwide”
- ComponentOne Speaker Bureau – “they need a page on their site for this – this is a blog post from one member”
I know that the Great Lakes Area .NET Users Group has used all of the above speaker support programs successfully.
Naturally, you can look at other events to find speakers. Most events, whether large or small, include a listing of the speakers on a single page, making it very easy for you to come up with a list of speakers you might like to talk to about coming to your event. Here are a few to get you started:
- TechEd North America 2011 Speakers
- MIX11 Sessions – I didn’t find a separate speakers URL
- DevConnections Speakers: Visual Studio, ASP.NET, SharePoint
- VSLive Speakers
- CodeMash Speakers
- StirTrek Speakers
- DevReach Speakers
- DevTeach Speakers
- CodeStock API (with speakers in XML or JSON)
and of course you can find more events as well as announce yours using Community Megaphone.
You’ll be shocked to learn that a large number of speakers who are selected for large conferences have a personal connection with the speaker coordinator or track chair, or with someone the speaker coordinator trusts. As a user group leader or event organizer, you are the speaker coordinator. You have a network that includes speakers, potential speakers, and folks you trust (hopefully with some overlap among these categories, and I mean in addition to those who have actually already spoken at your event). Reach out to your network and ask them who they recommend you get to speak at your event. Go one step further and ask them to ask their speaker contacts if they would be interested in speaking at your event. Don’t underestimate the power of your network. And of course, the longer you play this game, the larger your network becomes, and the larger pool of speakers you have direct and indirect connections with. Don’t be afraid to start some of these connections via social networks (Twitter/Facebook/LinkedIn/Google+/Apple-/WhateverNewThingThisWeek). At least follow a few of the folks you’d like to have as speakers so you know something about them and their current interests. Most will have a blog, which is likely to include more in-depth discussions of the things they’re really interested in than their Twitter or Facebook feed will provide.
I’m aware of one mailing list / group dedicated to .NET speaker opportunities:
I’ll add more if I’m made aware of them.
Leverage MVPs and Regional Directors:
- Microsoft MVP Program
- Microsoft Regional Director Program
- Other influentials like DevMavens or GeeksWithBlogs
Consider Speaker Idol participants as well. Just do a search for Speaker Idol and you’ll find dozens of candidates. Unfortunately, there’s no one repository of such speakers, but it’s another resource you can use.
What Did I Miss?
So what’s missing? Please help your fellow community event organizers by adding any additional resources you’ve found helpful in locating speakers for your events. I know I didn’t include every developer conference in my Other Events list above and I apologize if your favorite is missing. I’ll leave it to you to add it in the comments if you think others would benefit from hearing about it. Thanks and good luck with your events!
Steve is an experienced software architect and trainer, focusing on code quality and Domain-Driven Design with .NET.