Every Monday night at 9:00, #speakchat takes place on Twitter. Speakers and conference organizers get together and share tips and discuss issues facing both sides. It’s especially enlightening for those of us who plan conferences because we receive the most wonderful feedback, but also, we give speakers and attendees a chance to see things from our point of view. My only complaint is that there’s a lot more to talk about than 140 characters (minus hashtag) allows. This happened yesterday when we briefly touched on why we prefer speakers turn in their own applications and fill out their own proposals. I thought it was important enough to get into more in depth here.
You see, many speakers are busy, we get that. However, when they have someone else fill out their proposals it can lead to some issues – some minor, some not so minor.
1. The proposal isn’t in the speaker’s own voice
We receive hundreds of speaker proposals and going through them all takes time. If it’s nothing but jargon, we’ll probably pass. We’re looking for sincerity and authenticity. Moreover, we like to get a feel from the speaker and we’re not getting that if someone else is handling things. You can’t be yourself if someone is writing all your stuff for you.
2. The speaker isn’t agreeing to our terms
Our speaker proposal forms includes a speaker agreement with lots of stuff to read and consider. When someone else fills out your form, it means you’re not agreeing to our terms. We don’t want any surprises. What happens if you learn your sessions are appearing on our virtual conference website and you’re not into that? What if you don’t agree to our terms? Too late if it’s already filled out.
3. The wrong name is in our system
I rejected a proposal for someone who we already agreed to have speak. Why? Because I thought it was a completely different session, one that we don’t have room for at this late date. It was filled out by a P.R. person and her name and details were in our database, not the speaker. How would I ever know that?
4. The speaker sometimes doesn’t know s/he’s speaking
I received a letter last week from someone who received a note that her proposal was denied. She had no idea what I was talking about. After a bit of digging around we found out that a P.R. person filled out a speaker form but failed to tell her. This ended up wasting both our time.
5. We’re missing important contact information
So you’re speaking and you oversleep. We don’t know what hotel you’re staying in and the only phone number we have is your assistant’s office line. Except she’s in a different time zone and won’t be at work for a couple of hours. So because we don’t have your cell phone we can’t find out where you are and what happened. We need your contact details – not your P.R. person.
We ask for a speaker’s details for a reason. If your proposal is written by someone else and has someone else’s name and contact details, we’ll probably turn it down. Plus, many times P.R. people propose for speakers because there’s something for sell. Our policy is to absolutely, positively have NO SELLING in our sessions. If we smell a pitch, we’re moving on. We’re not mean, but we’re looking to hear from our speakers, not their people.
So those are our reasons for discouraging a second party to fill out proposals. Tell us why you’d prefer to have someone else handle this than to do it yourself. Also, if your an assistant or P.R. person tasked with handling proposals, give us your perspective in case we’re way off base.