Finding speakers seems to be a constant struggle for meetup organizers. Especially with smaller groups it can be hard to find new speakers. It can also get tiring to hear from the same couple folks every month.
Here are a few ways to find speakers:
- Ask Your Group – Ask for volunteers. And keep asking. There are always new people or people who are newly considering it. Keep asking. As time goes on people are learning and growing, so they’re gaining the insights to give a solid presentation. So keep asking.
- Out-of-Town Guests – Watch for out-of-town guests who might make good speakers. If they’re coming in to town for something else they might be able to piggyback and attend your event as well.
- Local Experts – Find local experts in your area and invite them to speak.
- Blogs – Watch the blogs and tweets of your group members for good ideas and then ask them to speak on that topic.
- Search for Ideas – Check out WordPress blogs (like WPCandy, WP Hacks or WPShout), WordPress.tv and the schedules for other WordPress Meetups or WordCamps to get ideas for engaging presentations. Then look for someone in your community who could cover those topics.
- Off Topic – Sometimes the best presentations are only tangentially related to WordPress. Think outside the box. Sometimes a design refresher or a basics of copywriting presentation is just what people need. After all, WordPress sites need graphic design and they need copy. You don’t want to stray too far from WordPress often, but occasionally it can be fruitful.
- Shake Things Up – If finding presenters is hard, go with a different format. Go with a social hour, demonstration, round table discussion, group project or something else.
“Don’t wait until the week before to try to get a speaker,” says Lynn Dye, co-organizer of the Oklahoma City WordPress Users Group. “Plan in advance so you’re not scrambling at the last minute.”
As hard as it may be to find speakers, the more you can plan in advance the better. You give your speakers more lead time to prepare their presentations, you can announce the event earlier and build community interest and it makes your organizing efforts less stressful.
Take Care of Your Speakers
It’s also important when you find speakers to make sure it’s worth their while. Most groups can’t afford to pay presenters (though if you’re charging for the event, you might be able to offer a small honorarium or gift card), but you can still do your utmost to be thankful. Make sure you communicate all the appropriate details and don’t leave your guest speaker wondering. Confirm that they’re coming a week before and ask if they need anything. At the event, anticipate any needs they may have. Make sure the audio-visual connections work, offer them water and let them know the schedule for the event. After the event show your appreciation by sending a thank you card.
It’s hard to find speakers, so when you find them treat them well so they’re eager to do it again.
It Gets Easier
“Passionate people have found ways to get involved in the group; we don’t twist arms,” says Toby Cryns, co-founder of the Minneapolis-St. Paul WordPress User Group. Hopefully over time you’ll find the same thing: Put together a good group and the passionate speakers will come to you.