Part 2: Really Getting Started
Without _____, you don’t have an event.
It’s damn near impossible to market a first year event without a lineup. And you can’t have an event without a venue. And you can’t get a venue without having a date. And getting speakers to commit relies heavily on when your event will happen. (!) This’ll post focuses primarily on speakers.
Do you want to offer a curated lineup or put out a Call for Speakers and select from people who apply to speak at your event? With a curated lineup, you have more control over who appears in your event, but you can be limited by who you know. With a Call for Speakers, you may attract speakers you haven’t heard before. (Maybe a hybrid approach is best?)
Before I had an event, I understood that we needed to have a good core lineup in order to have an event people would pay to attend. Established, well-known speakers help get asses in seats. I reached out to a number of friends to see if they’d be available to speak, and fortunately, they were able to.
Finding local speakers was challenging. I’m not as plugged in as I’d like to be. This is where I leaned on others to help identify people that would be a good fit. (You may want to reach out to local user groups to see if they can suggest great speakers in the area.)
Lesson 6 — Don’t be afraid to ask someone to speak: they might say yes.
If there’s someone you’d really like to have speak at your event, just ask them. They very well might have availability for your event.
Lesson 7 — Don’t get discouraged if someone isn’t available.
Don’t get discouraged if you don’t hear back from someone you’d love to have speak. Be persistent about following up, but don’t be obnoxious. And if they can’t work it into their schedule, thank them for their time and ask them to consider speaking in the future. Even though you’re only planning this event, it hopefully won’t be your last.
Travel & Accommodations
- Be prepared to cover travel and/or accommodations for your out-of-town speakers. (These costs will impact what you need to charge for your event. Have these discussions as early on as possible. Don’t waste anyone’s time if you can’t afford to have them or if they have unrealistic expectations.)
- Plan early. If you’re going to make travel arrangements for speakers, don’t wait until the last moment. (This was an area where I really fell down.) The longer you wait, the more likely travel expenses will increase.
- If applicable, ask them if their company could cover any of their expenses in exchange for sponsorship.
- If they live close enough, ask them to drive.
- Hotels are expensive in most downtown areas. Ask to speak with someone on staff and see if they offer group discounts.
Communicate with your speakers often. Leading up to the event, they need to feel comfortable you’ve got your shit together. Let them know if things change. Let them know what your plans are. Let them know when they need to arrive, where they need to be. Don’t let there be any guesswork on the day of your event.
Don’t make it difficult for them to get in touch with you or whoever your point of contact is.
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