I have organised a few conferences and countless workshops & meetups over the past couple of years. It goes without saying that I want each event to be the best it can be. Events are now the biggest part of my business, and I treat them as such.
I obviously want my events to appeal to the widest possible audience, but I have to remember that a conference of mine will never be for everybody. I curate my conferences for me, that is the only way I can do it. I choose speakers & topics that I would like to hear, in the hope that others would also be interested. A conference aiming to please everybody would be pretty boring. I would like to think that my conferences are never boring.
Conference organisers are often under fire for booking the same old faces. This has been the subject of many heated discussions over the years. The same old faces are usually very good at what they do, that is why they are booked to speak at events. Familiar names also help to put bums on seats - the lifeblood of any sustainable conference. As an organiser who invests/risks a lot of money is my conferences, it is comforting to know that seasoned speakers will be on stage. It helps me sleep easier at night.
This years conference; www.theweb.is is a particulalry large event. Costs are astronomical (whatever you think it may be, double it, now add a zero and you may be getting close) but I am happy taking this risk. The speakers we have booked so far are professionals - I feel comfortable with them taking to the stage. I like to take an active part in stage managing my conferences, I rarely get to see the talks first hand as I am normally in the wings organising mics, stage entrances etc. I work incredibly hard to ensure that every single speaker I have booked has been comfortable when stepping out to face an audience.
With regards to talk proposals, I feel it is important to have new faces speaking at events. Many conferences source the majority of their speakers via talk proposals. This is great, but this isn't something I am keen to do. I like to curate as much as my conference as I can, I don't like to have surprises. Therefore, I think I will always curate the majority of the content at my events, with one or two sessions open for proposals.
This year I have decided to limit the surprises by asking for all proposals via audio or video. This will give me a reasonable idea of how that person will present - something which I believe to be just as important as the talk content. I know of many great speakers who may not be able to articulate the basis of a talk by writing. I think a small audio/video clip would give me a better idea of the potential talk & speaker than a written proposal ever could. This may alienate some great speakers, but I feel written proposals would alienate more. After all, I am not asking for somebody to step on the stage and write for the audience, I want them to present. Audio/video proposals will also help to filter out those who simply send the same proposal to all events. I am not looking for high production, just good content delivered in a capable manner. Most computers & phones have a way of capturing audio or video, so I think the majority of people have the technical ability to be able to submit a proposal if it is something they feel strongly about. I am always happy to help anybody who may see this as a struggle.
Again, this may not be everyones cup of tea, and I may be wrong - I often am.