Keep your Speakers in the Loop

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In my experience, the vast majority of conferences treat their speakers well; otherwise, they wouldn't have speakers.

Communicating with your speakers is important, though. I'm not talking about cases such as this:

What I mean is that after acceptance, you should continue communicating with your speakers regularly. Keep them in the loop so they know what's going on.

If, for example, you announced that registration for the conference would open at a certain date and it doesn't (which is not a big deal as such), then also tell your speakers about the delay. They often have to act as a proxy for you, i.e. people come up to them "Hey, I know you're speaking at X conference. Do you know why registration isn't open yet?" And it makes them wonder when the speaker, as someone who - in their minds - is supposedly involved with the conference doesn't know what's going on. It can, very indirectly but noticeably, affect your conference's reputation.

I shouldn't have to emphasise that your speakers act as ambassadors for your conference but also as multipliers. When they mention that they're speaking at your conference, then that's publicity and marketing for your event. People may not be interested in that particular speaker, but it may be the first time they heard about your conference. And it usually means that the remark was made in a context where that person is in your target audience.

Here are some things you could do, in addition to the obvious basics of communication with your speakers (like acceptance or rejection, information about travel and accommodation, about technical equipment and requirements, etc. - I'll leave all that for another time):

When you plan the milestones for your conference, also plan milestones for your speaker communication. If the schedule is going to be posted on your website on the 15th, then send an email to your speakers on the 14th. It'll give them advance notice and reminds them that they can now point people to your website. And if the schedule is not going to be available on the 15th as planned, send the email anyway and explain why not (and don't forget to update your website, so the potential audience is informed, too).

Just as you send out emails to participants, send them out to your speakers, too. Add them to the newsletter for conference attendees.

Read your own newsletter before sending it off. Look at it from the speaker's perspective. Is there any information they would need in addition to what's in the audience mailing? E.g. if there are extra fees to attend certain parts of your event, let your speakers know whether or not they are expected to pay for those.

Have a person responsible for speaker contacts. Channel all speaker communication through them so that the speakers have a single point of contact to email or call up in case of a question or problem. Define a backup, but make sure the speakers don't have to hunt for the contact information and will know who to contact first.

Most speakers don't expect to be treated like rock stars. But without your speakers - whether you pay them or not - you wouldn't have a conference. With just a little extra effort, you can keep them informed and happy and that will help them and reflect positively on your event.

As a speaker, what's your experience with communication from the organisers? Any suggestions for improvements?

(Image Credits: Competition by Andrew Hart, CC BY-SA, from Flickr)

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Creative Commons Licence "Keep your Speakers in the Loop" by Dirk Haun is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International Licence.