How do we Select Speakers for Business of Software Conference?

How do we select speakers?

We get asked a lot about how we choose speakers and how people can go about applying to speak at Business of Software Conferences. In the hope that this helps people apply to speak at any event successfully, not just Business of Software Conference.

Here are our secrets…

There are no secrets. 🙁

  • We have an interesting curation challenge: fifteen or so speaking slots across 3 days.
  • It’s rarely a problem to persuade someone to speak as the event has gained a great reputation over the years as being one of the best software conferences in the world. We receive tens of approaches a week throughout the year to speak.

Here are the things that we think about when we consider how well a speaker will fit with the conference. Other events may have much more formal criteria but I would bet that if you score well on these points, you will be well received.

  • Understanding of Audience – previous attendee/speaker/what does applicant ‘know’ about BoS or is it just a ‘drive-by’ application? What will the audience learn? Are there key takeaway points?
  • Content – Is the content relevant and does it fit within the ‘story’ that we want to tell across the event?
  • Where is the video? – Send links to a couple of previous, relevant talks. (Definitely don’t send a dozen links to panels where you introduce yourself at the beginning, send a single link to your best talk). We want to get a sense of your talk, your communication style, your energy. We strongly prefer to have seen a speaker speak in person, at least once. This isn’t always possible, but we would never agree to a speaker that we hadn’t seen speak live or online.
  • Style – is the talk ‘right’ for our audience? Entertaining, Covering New Ground, Non-salesy, Clear, Actionable?
  • How Engaged is the Speaker? – People who understand our audience, our conference, the problems software people face, usually deliver better talks than ‘pro speakers’. Some speakers are highly exposed and don’t interact with an audience much beyond their talk. We think these talks are better watched on Youtube.
  • Is this just a job for someone? Related to speaker engagement. Is someone applying to speak on their own account or are they being paid to place speakers? Marketing teams and agencies exist to maximise the exposure that key executives or CEOs get. They are usually highly speculative and rarely worth the effort. We have got to a point where we simply  have to ignore them. If you want to speak, apply yourself, don’t try to get other people to represent you – badly.
  • Marketing Reach – How can the speaker help us sell tickets, raise awareness and otherwise add value? What else can they do to help spread the word? How can we help each other?

Remember, we have to pick a very small number of speakers across multiple topics to produce a single track event that is interesting for everyone. That means that every year, we have to turn some brilliant speakers away simple for reasons of space. It does not mean that we wouldn’t want to have them back next year.

Hope that’s helpful.

You can also see this earlier post about speakers and how NOT to do it.

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