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#1 clue that a conference is going to be awful

Are they selling speaking slots to sponsors?

Before you register for an event, do this:

  • Compare the speaker list to the sponsor list.
  • Look at the page where people can apply to be a speaker. Is speaking paid or tied to buying a sponsorship or exhibit?

My personal view: Selling speaking slots is ripping off the paying audience. This is no different than a publication that tries to sneak paid advertorials into the news articles — not at all honest.

The audience is paying the conference producer for a great event, and the producer’s obligation is to deliver objectively great content. There is only one way to do that: Putting everything you’ve got into finding the best speakers you can get. And people who have to pay to get on stage usually aren’t very good speakers. (That’s why the best speakers are paid, not paying.)

As a conference producer, I believe that the customer of our conferences is you, the attendee — not the sponsor. You pay us for amazing, authentic speakers, and we have a duty to deliver. We choose all of our presenters based solely on the quality of their content. If sponsors are on stage, it’s clearly a quick hello or introduction that is identified as a sponsored moment. We’ll never trick you by putting a sponsor in the main content portion of the program.

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  1. This Week In Small Business: Pet Supplies! - NYTimes.com - July 30, 2012

    […] “Remember the mantra: Nobody belongs here more than me.” Andy Sernovitz reveals the biggest clue that will warn you that a conference is going to be awful. Scott Steinberg offers five high tech […]

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