The Conference Organizer – Gateway or Gatekeeper?

The Conference Organizer – Gateway or Gatekeeper?

When you proactively pursue a speaking opportunity, you will eventually communicate with the conference organizer (CO), the person responsible for developing the conference agenda. This person (or team) can be your key to success, or the roadblock preventing you from achieving your goal. It’s up to you.

Butts in seats

First let’s look at her motivation. She and her organization likely has two objectives: to maximize sponsorship dollars sold, and to maximize the number of attendee tickets sold. She does this by building the best possible conference agenda with the best, most recognizable speaker talent she can get – she’s got to put butts in seats.

Here’s where you come in. If you can present your speaker as a superstar who can cover unique ground that this audience wants to hear, then you can accomplish her objective, your objective and the objective of the audience which is to learn something useful to them. It will help if you represent a major brand or a hot innovator, but if you don’t, it’s not a show stopper.


If, on the other hand, you can’t convince the CO that your speaker will discuss something completely new or is a known superstar, you job is much harder. Your recommendation will likely be rejected, or you will be asked to sponsor a session rather than speaking free of charge. If your speaker is not the CEO of Amazon, there are three ways to get around this roadblock:

  1. Compelling content

    Your best chance is a super presentation idea, if you can announce news, introduce a breakthrough or show important new research that hasn’t been seen before, you can get the CO’s attention.

  2. Terrific track record

    Conference organizers are looking for a unique combination of newsworthy content and fantastic stage presence. So supply her with videos showing how good your speaker is if front of an audience. In addition to informing her audience, the CO heeds to engage them as well. Boring is bad.

  3. Premier co-presenter

    Your executive could be a dynamic speaker with incredible news to break at this conference, but if you’re seen as a vendor, you can still have a problem winning an earned opportunity. One way around this is to develop an interesting session with a strong co-presenter. A partner, customer, leading scientist, or policy maker related to your topic could help you break through, especially if that person is a recognizable name or from a well know organization.
    The conference organizer is a key piece of winning earned speaking opportunities. Understand her motivation and find ways to make wins for her, your speaker, and the audience simultaneously, and you’ll win more earned speaking opportunities at great conferences.