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Better Conferences (part one) – Make the speakers want to come back

I’m often invited to speak at conferences, so I know what it feels like to arrive in an airport in a foreign country where I don’t speak the language to meet up with a few hundred strangers. I’ve yet to speak at an event where I really felt welcome, drug the way you feel welcome when you visit a friend. I also organize the ACE! Conference, sickness and I try to do all the things with it that I wish all conference organizers did.

Here’s a simple list to check. I won’t say that you should do all of these things to treat a speaker well, but if you’re doing less than half of them, there’s a lot of room for improvement. I’ve also roughly estimated the cost. Most are cheap and some of the best are free.

  • Do you pick them up at the airport when they arrive? $
  • Do you get them back to the airport when it’s time to leave? $
  • Do you take them out to dinner on the first night of their stay? $
  • Do you take them out to dinner on every night of their stay? $$
  • Do you introduce them to each other before your event? free
  • Do you arrange activities for them during, before, or after your event? $-$$
  • Do you give them a map of the city, a list of things to do, and a local to talk to about how to enjoy your city while they are visiting? free
  • Do you provide them with accommodation during their stay? $$-$$$
  • Do you give them your phone number in case they need anything, have questions, or get lost while rambling about? free
  • Do you give provide them with transportation during their stay, in the form of a driver, bus/tram tickets, or prepaid taxi card? $
  • Do you give them a place to practice and/or relax at your event? free
  • Do you help them to understand the audience before they prepare their talks? free
  • Do you pay for their flights? $$$
  • Do you make high-quality videos of their talks? $-$$
  • Thoughtful speaker thank you gift $-$$
  • Do you provide accommodation and activities for the families of your speakers? $-$$$
  • Do you hire a sketch note artist for every talk (not just the main stage or keynote talks)?
  • Do you give them pay-as-you-go data sim cards when they arrive from a foreign country? $

As a general rule, I like to think how I’d treat an aunt visiting my family for the first time, coming from another country and not speaking the local language.

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