Wrangling Conference Speakers

No, not PA systems, but people.

As you may recall, I was the speaker liaison for SQL Saturday 194, being hosted by those lovely SQL South West people. Things went pretty smoothly; however, I do have a few observations on things that need to be done to make the process smoother for the next time.

Conference PowerPoint Template, Logos etc

Do you have a standard PowerPoint Template? What about a conference Logo? What about a standard slide full of sponsor information, or Health & Safety-esque Housekeeping? If so, these should be made available early on, ideally as part of the notes that you send to the speakers to confirm that they have been successful in applying to speak at your conference. Or at least on a “resources” page that’s accessible to all speakers.

PowerPoint slides and other documents

Do you have an upload site for these? Do you even have a requirement for this?

Techie bits

It helps to know well in advance what the conference venue provides in terms of visual aids – ie Projectors. What video inputs / outputs / cables are provided? Again, if this is available early, then speakers can either ask for something special, or know what they need to bring in order to successfully connect. Ditto for power supplies for those coming from overseas.


When asking “what size T-Shirt”, you never know what people are going to say. There’s one chap here who said “XL” – and he’s half the size I am! It’s an idea to send out, with the email requesting T-Shirt sizes, the sizing information from the supplier, so your delegates know what that supplier’s version of XL is supposed to be.

Hotel, Accommodation, Travel

Again, provide these details up front. Are you handling the hotel bookings for the speakers, or are they? If it’s up to the speakers, and there are special discount codes, provide these up front and in big letters so they don’t get lost? You’ll also need to provide details of public transport and local car parks.

Email format

Keep emails going to presenters well organised and clearly laid out. Don’t just send a slew of text – format it properly, use headings, make it clear what information is required back from them and by when, and what they need to do for themselves. I had one speaker email me in a panic because he couldn’t get a room at the hotel (he’d failed to quote the booking reference number); I had to chase a couple of others because they’d failed to notice something requiring their response.

On the day

Count them in.

Have an area for them to relax and prepare away from the throng of delegates. Make sure that this area has plenty of power, space to work, and a separate supply of tea & coffee.

Make sure that they have everything they need, know which room they’ll be speaking in. Have someone assigned to the room to deal with problems such as Audio/Visual, lack of pencils etc. Have that person also responsible for timekeeping in the room and for making sure that the room is kept tidy at the end of each session.

Disaster Planning

So, everything is prepared. However. What do you do about the speaker who falls ill a couple of days before they are due to present? Or, worse, the one who can’t get there on the day? We were fortunate, in that we could make use of our other speakers to fill in any gaps. And we were even more fortunate in finding that our guys were more than happy to do that if required.



This is an on-going document, but is being put out quickly to help others. There are bound to be things I’ve forgotten to put in, and I’ll add them as & when I get round to it.

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