Most organizations receive hundreds of emails and phone calls asking about their speaker call for proposals.
In one of my past jobs, we received 30-50 inquiries a month from professional speakers trying to land a speaking gig. And we were flooded with industry speaker requests as well.
We hated those inquires. They were like speaker spam to us! And rarely did we hire someone who interrupted our work day with a cold call!
Developing A Conference Content Strategy
The challenge for conference organizers is developing the right conference content strategy that appeals to the conference participants and potential customers.
When it comes to a content strategy, we rely on volunteer committees and a call for speaker proposals. We expect volunteers, each with different opinions and ideas, to create our content strategy from our list of speaker proposals. We demote content strategy to happenstance in the name of member participation.
Too often conference organizers bow to industry speaker-squeaky-wheels. We defer to our speakers above the conference participants’ needs because those speakers are members. Who suffers in the process? The majority of our members, the audience, the learners.
Many try to appease all of their customers and allow anyone to present. They go for quantity, offering a smorgasbord buffet of sessions. They just add to the noise. They diminish quality and importance. Who suffers in the process? The majority of our members, the audience, the learners.
Despite all our talk about customer-driven, learner-centric, participant-centered design, we rarely consider the attendee’s experience as the guiding principle.
We should be thinking, “Is this content in the best interest of my conference participant? Is this the best speaker for my participants?”
Seldom do we consider if the proposals that came in are the right ones or the best ones.
From Schedulers Of Speakers To Content-Curator-Strategists
We need Conference Content-Curator-Strategist.
This requires a different set of tools than being a scheduler of speakers and presentations. This is more than assigning speakers to time slots and rooms. It’s more than securing room layouts and AV.
It’s about creating semantic themes and threaded content. It’s about intentionally creating a learning experience.
It’s about the act of finding, grouping, organizing and securing the best and most relevant speakers and content on specific industry/profession issues. Then strategically placing that content into a conference schedule to create a narrative, evoke emotions and spur discussion.
We need Conference Content-Curator-Strategists that design a conference content strategy first. They create a conference education schedule based on participants’ issues before securing speakers. Then they curate crowdsourced speaker proposals and identify the best that align with the content strategy. Often it means finding speakers that may not have submitted a proposal.
This is a different set of skills than managing the call for proposals. This requires research, analysis, synthesis and evaluation. And if the right content does not come in through the call for proposals, conference organizers need to find the right speakers with the best information.
The Problem: Tools Aren’t The Silver Bullet
Trying to fix a conference’s content problems by securing a speaker management system is like trying to save a marriage by having a kid.
Speaker management systems and call for proposals are not designed to create content strategy. We need something more than just managing the details about speakers, room assignments, room sets and AV.
Our conferences need a content strategy. And they need professionals that act as Content-Curator-Strategists.
What roles do volunteer committees play in creating conference content strategy? Why do we assume that assigning rooms to speakers is creating a valuable conference experience for participants?