Should All Speakers be Curated from the Community?

If you hang out with enough speakers, you’ll end up hearing this (dreaded) line: “I only go to events I speak at.” To me, this is a selfish and borderline exploitative take on the role played by a speaker at an event. I’m a big fan of putting yourself in learning situations, and a conference is perhaps the perfect place to do it. By saying you only attend events you speak at, you are concurrently saying, “I’m bored with your content” and “I am better than your community.”

As an organizer, I thought it would be fun to play around with the idea of curating event speakers directly from the community. Ignite Boulder is 100% community curated (organizer pics count too, as I see it). It is a requirement that you have attended an event to speak at it. It has worked out pretty well.

How would you extend this to a bigger conference? I tried something and thought it was pretty neat. When I called a speaker to give the final “We want you to speak!” invite, I began the call with “Are you excited about the x event on x date? Are you going to join us?”

If they answered with “I only go to events I speak at,” the conversation ended.

If they answered with “The speakers look fantastic!” or “Planning on it!” my next line would be the invite to speak.

From what I’ve noticed, this drops the dead weight aka speakers that are really just there to exploit the community you are working so hard to build.

Is this over-thinking it? You bet. It was a fun experiment, however.





6 responses to “Should All Speakers be Curated from the Community?”

  1. Ben Jeavons Avatar

    Speakers from the community? YES!

    For the community around the open-source CMS, Drupal, local conferences (called Drupalcamps) are modeled somewhat after barcamps. But instead of being an unconference, Drupalcamps typically allow anyone to propose a session topic they can speak on and then everyone (the community) votes on sessions they’d like to see. A small group of people choose the event sessions based on community votes and building a rounded-out event with content for all (including those that hear about the event too late to vote).

  2. Clare Bear Avatar

    Co-sign a million times. Couldn’t agree more.

  3. NULL Avatar

    Totally agree.  

  4. Paula Fedyk Avatar

    Very thoughtful. 

  5. Bing Chou Avatar

    I agree with the idea that previous participation should be a requirement for people wanting to take an important role in the community.

    That said, I struggle with how to present that idea in a way that doesn’t make newcomers feel unwelcome.  In the case you described, I’m not particularly concerned with how the speaker reacts, but am concerned by how others interpret the message sent.

    Thoughts on this appreciated.

  6. Eric Walker Avatar

    I like that concept.  However, I wonder how many other events do the same or just bring in any big name no matter what.

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