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How to invite a conference speaker

I received an invitation reading

Acme Inc is organizing and sponsoring Timbuktu’s biggest annual developer conference called “Timbuk-Toot!”. Past speakers include Richard Stallman, Morgan Freeman, Humphrey Bogart and Cruella de Vil.

Would you like to give a workshop or a talk at Timbuk-Toot! in February 2019?

Let me know!

And that was it. It’s not nearly enough information to make a decision, so —unless it’s from someone I know, or I’ve always always wanted to visit Timbuktu— I park this, thinking “I’ll email back and ask them for more information”. Then, of course, the rest of the day happens and I forget about it.

So, if you’re emailing someone to ask them to speak, at a minimum I’d need this information:

You need to tell me why I should care about it. You might be huge in the Timbuktu web industry, but I don’t know you. So far, all you have done is raise questions which means I have to reply to you and ask them, on top of all the other things I have to do today.

Don’t make me think!

2 Responses to “ How to invite a conference speaker ”

Comment by Patrick Griffiths

Suspect away. BUT, but, but, but…

An organiser:

– Might not know how many people will attend – they might be hoping for 800, but they lose sleep every night over fears that it could be fewer than 100.

– Might not have an exact date just yet because they’re prioritising the speaker line-up and the speakers’ availability will affect the exact date. (answer to your question: “I’m busy for the first two weeks of Feb, but a day towards the end of the month, at the moment, might be do-able”)

– Might not have mentioned flights / accommodation because (rightly or wrongly) the worry is that these details will come across as a bit presumptive at that stage (“of course you’ll come!”)

– Might not have a clue where to start with a fee – they absolutely want to – they absolutely respect you and your time – but they’re also shit scared about the massive commitment they’re making and the possibility that the event might financially cripple them.

– Might absolutely be implementing a code of conduct, and be pushing harder than anything else for an inclusive line-up, but might want to keep things to the point at the moment – might think that outlining all details in the initial contact will be too much – might lead to a greater likelihood of you leaving the email ’til later, filing it away and forgetting about it.

– Might genuinely, really, want to hear if you’re interested first, and take it from there, and think, reasonably, that that’s the best, friendliest, even most professional, way to approach you.

This is helpful for organisers to read, though. I’m just saying that it’s not so straight-forward for them. There are reasons why a speaker might not get a bam-bam-bam query. Most tech conference organisers aren’t professional conference organisers and some (especially, but not exclusively, first-timers) are pretty nervous about about the whole thing. Many of them just passionately want to put on an event and they’re actually trying their best not to mess up.

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