Mittwoch, 23. Oktober 2013

Getting speakers for your Usergroup

Are you organizing a Usergroup? That's awesome! But you might share the problem of not having enough speakers and not having cool topics everybody wants to hear about. I myself was (and still am) in this situation with the very young ViennaPHP Usergroup. Let me tell you how I partially managed to solve this problem.

The organizers mindset

You might be struggling to get speakers because you as an organizer are not commited enough. Its a hard reality that a usergroup is much work and just putting an announcement on meetup and waiting for talks to come in will hardly do it. You need to market your group, get cool locations and sponsors and engage with your members.

If you do this, people will recognize that there is something happening and will jump in to help. Of course this requires up front work on your side, but that's the way it is

Don't just ask the group, ask the persons

Sometimes I see emails from Usergroups with "Who wants to do a talk?". I'm usually eager to talk, but this emails won't make me do a talk. They are just noise in my mailbox. If you want me to do a talk, you either have to get my interest by organizing a great usergroup I want to participate in or you ask me directly, already knowing what I usually do and suggesting topics and everything.

It's the same with most people. I was writing an email for every meeting, trying to get speakers. Nothing happened. Now I'm approaching people at our meetup, other meetups or through email and ask them "Hey, you are great at X, would you mind talking about it a little?". This makes a big difference!

Ask strangers

If you would have told me that just emailing a bunch of people would get our usergroup 2 international speakers within a month, I maybe would have used the word "crazy" to describe you. But it works. I used a combination of contacts (from former jobs, meetups, conferences) as well as "cold-call" emails like "Hey, I know you do X, maybe you are in Vienna to do a talk?" and even send emails to companies saying "I love your product, would you happen to know somebody in Vienna who would like to do a talk about it?".

The replies where about 10% and up until now only 2 speakers (which is about 5%) are confirmed, but that's huge for my terms! I have another 80 email addresses on my list and if the percentes keep up, this means 4 other speakers for 2014!

Just do it!

I guess doing it is the hard part. Writing emails to total strangers asking them for help is not something I do every day. But the feedback I got was positive all the way. People where apologizing for not having a speaker at hand or saying they'd love to join us anytime soon if they happen to be around Vienna.

By writing all these emails, the ViennaPHP Usergroup has both David Mytton (CEO ServerDensity) and Freerich Bäthge (CTO Sensiolabs Germany) speaking at the November Meetup. And that's worth the hassle!

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