How to find a technical speaker who is not bombarded with tomatoes

    The topic of conferences for the Russian-speaking space is very complex. The share of those who are convinced that conferences is a chatter and a waste of time and money, is rather large, because the low level of reports, poor organization, too much advertising are too common and do not contribute to the achievement of the goals for which such events are organized.

    Everything looks better in IT. This area is more focused on export and quickly adopts and implements Western habits, concepts, business standards.

    How to find speakers with excellent technical reports - the root component of any conference? Especially if you have never done such things before and do not plan to contact the event agency.
    You can outsource handouts, ticket sales, and organizing all kinds of little things, but not a single agency can do the job of finding speakers with excellent technical reports that are better than yourself.

    Case


    Our company is developing modules for the most popular e-commerce platform in the world - Magento. For several years in a row, Meet Magento network conference has been held in different countries. Amasty conducts it in Belarus for the second time, and we have something to tell about an independent search for technical speakers.

    In general, the number of Magento developers is not very large compared to other development communities. This circumstance greatly complicates the search. Both in the past and this year, we were faced with the task of creating a program for the whole day, consisting of current technical reports, diluted with one or two reports on e-commerce topics.

    Among technical speakers, on average there are fewer people who publicize their name, actively communicate with colleagues and are generally present in the media space. Therefore, sometimes speakers need to be literally dug out of the ground.

    The total conversion of letters to speakers was 3.5%. If you plan to have 10 reports in the program (with the expectation that someone might not come, forget, break the collarbone, give birth to twins or just refuse), then you need to find almost 300 suitable candidates and write letters to them.

    How we made a contact list


    • personal contacts and recommendations

    You need to scroll through all the relevant contacts in your instant messengers, mail, lists of partners and major customers.

    • search through companies

    No need to be limited to direct contact with potential speakers. This is especially true for candidates from other cities or countries. Often the company itself is interested in the speech of its employee , paying all the expenses of the speaker.

    In the case of Meet Magento Belarus, we needed to make a list of companies from Belarus, Ukraine and Russia that work with Magento. The task is not an easy one, since many companies are encrypted and do not directly indicate the location of their offices or development centers.

    We started with LinkedIn and looked at the companies listed on Magento’s profile for developers from the above countries.

    The next step is to check the search engine results for all possible variations of keywords in Magento themes of Magento store development and creation. Do not forget about the English language and adding the name of the country to the request.

    Next, we downloaded data from the official directory of certified Magento developers for the countries you need - a couple more dozen companies.

    But that is not all! Sometimes the only sign by which it can be understood that the company really has a Russian-speaking office is vacancies. Therefore, we went through the search query “Magento developer” on popular job search sites like HeadHunter.

    At the last stage, we searched for Russian, Belarusian and Ukrainian large stores on Magento. In addition to the ready-made lists that can be found on the forums, you need to put in the browser a plug-in - the identifier of the site platform and check the lists of the top 50 online stores for each country. This also includes sites from the portfolio of companies we found.

    • speakers of related conferences

    In our case, these were conferences in Minsk, Moscow and Kiev on the topic of e-commerce, PHP and Magento.

    • forums, stack exchange, professional groups in social networks

    Any popular forum always has its own gurus and masters.

    • LinkedIn

    Down with skepticism!
    Linkedin
    Since LinkedIn search is limited to a free account, you can and should worry about buying one of the LinkedIn Premium plans. Then you will be able to send InMail messages, use a more advanced search. For those who don’t want to allocate funds for this functionality, you can cheat a little and use Google:
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    LinkedIn also has landing pages with top profiles on topics, countries, companies. They are not always 100% relevant, but it also helps to find more people you are interested in.
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    But that is not all. LinkedIn has another interesting option: if you are in a group for more than four days, and your free account is older than 30 days, then you can send 15 letters a month to group members without sending them a request to be added to contacts.

    • books, courses, trainings

    Look for authors of training materials of any kind on your subject - perhaps there will be interesting characters among them. In the case of development topics, you can also search for those who provide code review services.

    • Also, if you are looking for overseas speakers, speaker directories may be helpful.

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    • companies that develop languages, related services, tools, software

    For example, in our case, these were hosters, companies making statistics services for the e-commerce parts of Magento, and export and import tools. JetBrains (creator of PHPStorm) is sponsoring Meet Magento Belarus for the second year in a row.

    Which speakers you do not want to see in your event


    • a speaker whose every second phrase is “crammed” by the NDA

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    What kind of project was this, I won’t say no, I won’t tell the subject either ” and “ how many downloads did we have in the app store?” I won’t say, you’ll calculate this application ”- these are real phrases of a living person. In response, I just want to ask: are you serious?

    If the speaker’s report is full of such “holes”, it is better to exclude it from the program. Your students have paid money and / or want to spend their time profitably.

    • a speaker who acts solely for the purpose of promoting himself, his services, product or service. Such a performance is permissible only within the framework of sponsorship relations.
    • a speaker who is an excellent specialist in his field, but is completely unable to speak
    • a speaker who can speak but is not a great specialist

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    • a young (or not so) unrecognized genius who wants to show the world his unique and unmatched invention (script, service, patch, a new kind of database, a new programming language, underline what is necessary)

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    How to determine how good a speaker is and its topic?


    • ideal if the speaker has already spoken somewhere, and you have the opportunity to watch a video with his report
    • ultimately, the speaker must provide the working title of the report, a brief description and abstract . If there are problems at this stage, then it is worth considering the feasibility of inviting this candidate
    • if in doubt, ask questions!

    Clarify, specify, ask for reformulation, let it not make you feel too meticulous and intrusive. At this stage, it is desirable to exclude any misunderstanding of the topic and format of the report so that there are no surprises at the event.

    • If you are not sure that you will be satisfied with the oratorical qualities of the candidate, ask him to devote ten to fifteen minutes to talking on Skype.

    It’s not necessary that your speaker approaches the top managers of Google or Apple in terms of impact on the audience. For the technical specialist, intelligible speech, a logical and consistent presentation of thoughts and professional gestures and facial expressions will be enough.

    When to start looking for speakers?


    Five years ago, for a conference with more than 150 people, the gold standard was one year. That is, ideally, exactly in a year, the date of the event was determined, the conference room was booked, and the search for speakers and partners began.

    Now IT specialists are very mobile, and it is unlikely that you will be able to agree with the speakers so in advance.

    Searches must begin 6-3 months before the date of the event. Six or three depends on your event. The wider your audience, the later you can begin to act. In our case, the audience is not too big, and we started writing to potential speakers about 6 months before the event.

    As a result, two months before the event, Meet Magento Belarus 2015 had a fully formed program.

    Why is this so important? Spectators very rarely agree to buy a conference ticket if they don’t know the speakers or at least the approximate topics of the reports. In general, the early formation of the program gives you more opportunities for public relations events and frees your hands in the last weeks before the event.

    Topic selection


    The ideal option is when a potential speaker immediately reports that he has an interesting topic that he would like to share with the audience.

    If the candidate has a desire to speak, but there is no clear topic, you can and should help him, having outlined the framework, to ask leading questions.

    The theme should be very close and familiar to him , that is, he worked closely with her or understands it at least at the advanced level. In addition, the topic of the report should be relevant, fairly new or unusual and interesting for at least 60 percent of listeners (and better, all 80-90%).

    For the report, uniqueness is important , as well as the speaker’s personal experience. Simply put, it’s hardly worth inviting ordinary employees with ordinary topics (the exception is educational conferences for beginners or students, as well as sponsorship reports).

    An extremely vicious practice is to give the speaker a topic , and then expect him to understand it as a student prepares to defend his diploma. This is not interesting to the audience, since everyone knows how to google, moreover, the speaker can very shamefully “fall over” on questions. Although many candidates still say something like: "Give me a topic, and I will speak." The main ideas should come precisely from the speaker, because he will broadcast them from the stage.

    Speakers Responsible


    Searching for speakers is a completely unusual activity for most IT companies. However, someone will have to do this work.

    In our opinion, the perfect combination is the tandem of a marketing / sales / HR specialist and a technical specialist. The first will do all the work of compiling lists, writing letters, and solving organizational issues. A technical specialist should be as experienced as possible, with experience attending thematic conferences, as he will evaluate the quality of the proposed topic. If you do not have such a cool technical specialist, you can form an organizing committee and attract a guru from other companies.

    Humiliated and offended. How to avoid conflicts at this stage?


    And why avoid conflicts in general, you probably ask, no, they say, and there is no trial. Despite the fact that the book “Do not work with m * ducks” is very popular now, any good leader will tell you that you also need to be able to refuse - so that you can disperse without unnecessary sharpness. Who knows, you may have to work with this person in the future.

    So, if you refuse to give a speaker a speech at your conference, then you need to explain reasonably why you are doing this.

    • the report does not correspond to the subject, audience, format of the conference
    • you doubt the quality of the report (whether it will be complete, rich information)
    • ...

    In case of refusal, a universal psychological rule applies: you reject a specific report and comment only on it ; you should not criticize the candidate himself, aloud evaluate his competence, level of professionalism, or anything else.

    The second rule: refusing, let's get something in return . Give the person a discount on the ticket, say that you will definitely contact him next year, wish him success in your speeches at other conferences.

    NB: anyway, someone will be offended and will ask for a long time and meticulously why you refused him.
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    What and how to write?


    A lot of articles have been written about such letters (outreach emails), in which there is everything: from choosing a title to the time of sending, from the optimal length of the letter to recommendations for follow-ups. We will not repeat common truths, but just add something from ourselves:

    • Yes, most likely, you will use the letter template, because it is unrealistic for all 300 people to write an absolutely unique and personal letter. The text about the conditions of participation, links to details about your event can well be copied. But it is vitally necessary to include in the letter at least one or two noticeable proposals personally for the speaker .

    For example: “ We were impressed by your presentation at Conference X last year and therefore would like to invite you ... ”; “ Your experience in X would be very interesting to our audience ... ”.

    • Tear change templates! As you correspond with candidates, you will be asked questions. Include answers to them in the updated letter.

    If you use any email tool for mailing, it will not be superfluous to conduct an A / B test for the header or text of the mailing.
    To invite paid speakers is a matter of the budget of your conference only.

    But if you call a speaker at absolutely no cost, be prepared to explain why he needs it.

    If you cover any expenses of the speaker, help with the visa - immediately inform about all these options in the first letter.

    Do not miss the opportunity to cooperate


    If you refused the speaker, or he refused because of employment or lack of a coherent topic, this is not the last step in your work on the conference.

    In the next letter or call, offer the candidate something else:

    • discount ticket
    • conference partnership or sponsorship
    • ask him to recommend someone who would be interested in speaking
    • how else will you be useful to each other? Feel free to ask this question directly.

    Conclusion


    To summarize, the search for excellent technical speakers for the event is both very routine and very creative. Sometimes you have to show miracles of ingenuity in order to find personal contacts of candidates or to get an answer to your letter.

    In any case, if you have long wanted to organize an IT event - now you have a plan for finding technical speakers.

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