It seems like I’ve been getting a TON of PR firms contacting me about getting “their speakers” on the defrag agenda, so I thought it might be useful to put down on virtual paper some guidelines/insight into how you can work your way on to the agenda (in no particular order):
1. Don’t open with “Our CEO normally gets paid to speak, so we’re thinking a keynote would be appropriate.” Yea, no. First off, if your CEO normally gets paid to speak, then I’m sure you’ve got plenty of paid requests lying around — why don’t you go pursue those. Secondly, really? THAT is how you’re gonna open your pitch? wow.
2. Don’t push for a keynote – period. Look – the keynoters are a big deal. A big deal. Like a “make or break the show” kind of big deal. And yes, I’m sure you’re a big deal too –but know this: I spend MONTHS finding the right keynoters, and they’re always a mix of authoritative voice, uniqueness, topical relevance and just plain striking my fancy at the moment. Do some of our past breakout speakers receive keynote slots? Yes, they do. I just informed Maggie Fox (of Social Media Group) yesterday that I had slotted her in a keynote talk. Prior to that, she hadn’t asked, and had no idea. I did it because I saw her talk at last year’s Defrag, and I like the way her brain works (plus I now know she’s good on stage). So, if you want a keynote – start with a breakout.
3. Don’t dictate to me how much time you’ll need on stage. Here’s the thing: even the BEST public speakers rarely need as much time as they think — and I’m talking the pro’s that do nothing but speak (and get paid for it). Most people can say what they need to say in 20 minutes (rarely, 30). A lot of speakers give BETTER talks when they’re “rushed” into squeezing their talk into 10 minutes.
4. Do engage me personally. I’m enorlin AT mac.com. Don’t worry about CFPs, or submission deadlines, or any of that crap. Just email me. Write an interesting blog post about a topic you’re working on. Do something engaging. Start a conversation. 99% of the Defrag talks get formed in *conversation* not in solitude. So, let’s chat.
5. Do address one specific topic. If your talk is “how to succeed with social media on zero budget” you can forget speaking. If your talk is “what you can learn from the behavior of bird flocks” – you’re probably in. Pick one topic. Address it succinctly.
6. Don’t fall into the case study trap. There are plenty of conferences looking for case studies. That’s not Defrag. I’m looking for analogies, wild theories, off-the-wall statistically backed up realities, talks that integrate facts from other disciplines. Tell me how the Incredible Hulk taught you the essentials of API pricing, or why fly fishing on the Madison river is the perfect analogue for analytics, not “the four steps to on-boarding a white label social networking platform.”
7. Do use humor, personality, and integrity as your tools. Did you give a killer talk at an O’Reilly show? Send me the video. Make some joke about how you know you’ll have to step it up to make it into Defrag (see – a JOKE), and let it fly. Really, be human.
8. Get to know me. For better or worse, Defrag is run by me (Eric) and my wife (Kim) — not a team of salaried professionals. That means that A) I don’t get paid unless Defrag succeeds and B) whatever the hell I say goes. So, get to know me. Follow me on Twitter, read the blog, etc. And then use that to your advantage — example: If you submit a talk entitled, “Holy Diver: Why Ronnie James Dio Rocks Harder than Anyone Ever” — you might just make it on stage (I have an 80s metal fetish — something you’d know if you knew me.)
[sidenote: when I say "what I say goes" - I don't mean that as "it's my world and you're living in it." Quite the contrary. Defrag's my baby - and my ONLY goal is to have attendees coming out saying, "that was the best conference ever." Anything short of that sends me back to do it again. You'll notice we're on year four. Bottom-line: the agenda is a collaborative effort that emerges from endless conversations, and it's aimed at pleasing. The responsibility for that falls (ultimately) to one person - me.]
9. If you don’t get on stage, don’t give up. Come to Defrag anyway. Get to be part of the community. Your chances will increase exponentially if you do. I can tell you that as a conference organizer there’s nothing more off-putting than someone who tells me how important Defrag is to their world, and then doesn’t come if they’re not on-stage. I actually had someone tell me that Defrag isn’t worth their time if they’re not presenting. See, that’s funny – cuz you just became not worth Defrag’s time.
10. Make the last minute pitch. Rule #1 of conference organizing: speakers will suddenly develop an emergency that prevents them from speaking and let you know about 7 days before hand. At which point, I’m looking for cool talks. Be in touch late and often.
Lastly, remember – I’m just a human dude. I make stupid mistakes all of the time. I may have overlooked you – and I may totally regret it. Don’t hold it against me — keep the conversation going year-long. Remind me that I was an idiot for not putting you on stage.
Alright, getting off of the soapbox….Defrag’s gonna absolutely blow people’s hair back this year. I hope you’ll join us (one way or another).