Have you seen the recent debate about social media speakers?
I’ve been watching the debate from the sidelines and decided to weigh in with my comments here. After all, it is about me as a conference and event organizer and what we event professionals are supposed to be doing.
I’m also going to use this post to kill two birds with one stone. I was tagged by Liz Strauss to connect a brain leader with a social force in her post Will You Try Some New Media Brain Alchemy. Suzanna Stinnett started this tag with Cloud Alchemy: A Thinking Heart. Stay tuned for my meeting of the minds at the end of this post as I introduce female social media strategists to #eventprofs and some of my speaker bureau connections!
Now back to the debate about social media speakers.
Here’s a quick overview of the debate. TSG (The Speakers Group Speakers Bureau) released “Their Top 10 Social Media Speakers To Know.” Blogger Geoff Livingston fired back with “Women Snubbed in Top Ten Speakers List, Industry in General.” Both blogs have resulted in a firestorm of criticism and comments about inadequate representation of female social media speakers. Valeria Maltoni responded on her blog with An Opportunity For Speakers And Organizations with next steps on how to proceed instead of blame and pointing fingers.
First, some disclosure. I personally know TSG and have spoke on the phone with Shawn for years. He’s pitched speakers to me in the past although I never contracted with his bureau. I also am a fan and regular reader of Geoff Livingston’s Buzz Bin/CRC/Tanaka and Valeria Maltoni’s Conversation Agent. And I’m working on a an October conference with Liz Strauss where Geoff Livingston may will be a presenter/panelist. [Conference has been postponed to 2010 at this time.]
My view on the social media speaker debate.
I’m a professional event and conference planner that has hired more than 2,500 professional speakers in the past 10+ years. Diversity is always one of my top priorities when selecting speakers. I may create a draft event schedule and will play with it for days trying to ensure that I have a balance of male, female and different races in my speakers along with the right topics and the right fit for my audience. Then I have to check speakers’ availability and negotiate fees. I don’t always get the right balance or my first choice of speakers but I try hard. Often, I am frustrated by my lack of knowledge about female speakers on specific topics or those that are within my budget.
My suggestions to all social media strategist and speakers
I would encourage more social media bloggers and strategists to reach out to speaker bureaus and event professionals, and let them know of their desire to speak. Speaker bureaus pitch speakers based on those speakers that have signed agreements with them for representation, those that have voiced an interest in securing speaking gigs or those the bureau reps have personally seen or met. It’s not a bureau’s fault that they are not representing more speakers or listing more speakers of a certain type. They can’t promote people they don’t know or those that have not reached out to them.
How many of those female social media strategists listed in Geoff Livingston and Valeria Maltoni’s blog have reached out to speaker bureaus and asked for representation? How many have contacted the international, national or state associations of meeting and event professionals to let them know of their interest in speaking at their conferences? [Sidebar: The meeting and event professionals industry is dominated by women, not men.]
How many of these social media strategist, both female and male, have a one-sheet, a short marketing video, headshot, presentation descriptions, fee schedule and marketing materials about their presentations? These are all necessities within the professional speaking industry just as a computer, web hosting company, domain name and blog account are a necessity for bloggers.
Subject Matter Expert Does Not Equate To Professional Speaker
Just because someone has spoke at a bloggers conference, a social media event or SxSW does not mean that speaker is the right fit for traditional audiences. Just because someone is a great writer, blogger or author does not automatically qualify them as a great speaker. I’ve seen many industry speaker experts fail and flail with their presentations. Event professionals struggle with finding SMEs that cross the divide and deliver a homerun presentation with great content and outstanding delivery skills.
Assuming that all event professionals like me are aware of the “who’s who” of social media speakers is a false assumption. I’m probably the anomaly here because I have a personal interest in Web 2.0 and the social space. I seek out subject matter experts that have great content and can deliver a great presentation. There are plenty of opportunities for social media speakers yet unless conference organizers know about these speakers; it’s less likely conference organizers will find them.
Both Industries Are Foreign To Each Other
The professional speakers and events industries are probably foreign to most social media explorers, strategists, Ungurus and bloggers. Just as the social media industry is foreign to most meeting and speaker professionals. So it will take both industries reaching out to each other so that a broader diversity of speakers appear on conference agendas. Ultimately, that’s a win for conference and event attendees.
Time To Build Bridges & Create New Media Brain Alchemy
So in honor of building bridges, furthering discussions, creating new media brain alchemy and having people meet each other: Toby Bloomberg, Marcia Connor, Allison Fine, Kami Huyse, Tara Hunt, Beth Kanter, Charlene Li, Amber Mac, Valeria Maltoni, Jane Quigley, Liz Strauss and other female social media speakers, meet #eventprofs, the Twitter community of meeting and event professionals. You can find us every Tuesday at 9 pm EST and Thursdays at 12 pm EST in Twitter having a conversation about meetings, events and even social media issues. Please feel free to reach out to us using the #eventprofs hashtag. You’re welcome to join us anytime and we’d love to pick your brains about social media and events. We’d be more than willing to help you make more connections with meetings and events professionals.
And social media strategists please meet:
Andrea Gold of Gold Stars Speakers Bureau
Broker Agents Speakers Bureau
Convention Connection Speakers Bureau
Darrin Powell of International Speakers Bureau
Gina Schreck of Snyapse3Di
Katie Hiebert of Speak LLC
Keppler Speakers Bureau
Julie Homesey of Five Star Speakers and Trainers
Impact Speakers Bureau
Robert Swanwick of #SpeakerChat & SpeakerInteractive
Shawn Ellis of The Speakers Group
Sheldon Senek of Eagles Talent Speakers Bureau
And there are many, many more that I have not listed here. Also, please read David Meerman Scott’s Ranking of Speaker Bureau Websites.
Finally, social media strategists, please meet the following professional associations for the association, events, meetings, and training industries. You should know these associations as they cater to the decision makers at many organizations who hire professional speakers. Look for their call for speaker proposals as well so that you can begin to reach out to these industries and secure more speaking gigs outside of the social media industry.
ASAE (professional association of association executives with state and local chapters)
ASTD (professional association of training and development professionals with state and local chapters)
International Federation for Professional Speaking (chapters around the globe)
Meetings Professionals International (with international chapters)
National Speakers Association (with state chapters)
Professional Convention Management Association (senior level meeting and event professionals, with regional chapters)
Social media strategists and speakers, I hope to see you at a future conference or event either face-to-face or through live streaming. Break a leg!
PS, please feel free to add more social media strategists and speaker bureas in the comments section of this blog. It is in no-way a comprehensive list and there are many more people worthy of recognition.