Saturday, November 03, 2012

If you are running a user group or organizing a technical conference, one challenge you will face is finding good speakers.

I recommend starting by looking in your own area for good speakers.

My geographic area (southeast Michigan and environs) is blessed with many good speakers and we often exploit this at local user groups and conferences. Get out and find these speakers. Learn who is speaking at user groups and conferences in your area and contact those people. Better yet, attend those events so you can hear and meet these presenters. Establish a personal relationship with them, so they will be more likely to donate their time to your event.

You can also use your event to help cultivate inexperienced speakers. Multi-track conferences and short Lightning Talks at a user group are great ways for new speakers to gain experience in front of a live audience. At the Great Lakes Area .NET User Group, we host up to two Lightning Talks per monthly meeting. A Lightning Talk is a 10-minute presentation on any topic and is a great way to practice one’s presentation skills in a low-risk environment. Often a member will start by giving a Lightning Talk and will go on to speak at local and regional conferences.

It’s tempting to bring in big-name speakers from other parts of the country, but don’t ignore your backyard. You are likely to find some excellent speakers in a convenient location.