A User Group Leaders Guide to the INETA Community Speakers Program


As an INETA mentor, I’ve received a lot of feedback from my community about different things that INETA has done.  The Community Speakers program was started last year in an effort to help promote community speakers and assist user groups with bringing in fresh, exciting new faces.

A Little History

Before the Community Speakers programs, there was the National Speakers Bureau.  This group consisted of several familiar faces in the .NET community from across the world.  As a user group member of INETA, you could request one of this speakers to come talk at your user group with all expenses paid by INETA.

However, you did have abuse of the system.  For example, I’ve heard stories about speakers on the west coast who’d only speak to user groups on the east coast.  Why?  So they could get maximum number of frequent flyer miles.  A bit abusive, huh?  They would turn down a user group on the same side of the country just because they wanted to wait out for a more lucrative offer.

Changes

Instead of spending thousands of dollars on flights and hotels for national speakers, INETA decided to abandon that program and focus more on the local communities.

As a community speaker, you’re interested in a couple things:

  • Getting your name out in the public
  • Teaching the skills you have to offer
  • Free pizza (or tacos)

Notice I didn’t say: racking up frequent flyer miles.  A community speaker doesn’t worry about that sort of thing.  They speak for the benefit of the community.  Speaking at a user group is a bit of a commitment.  Not only do you have the time involved with preparing the talk, but you have to worry about taking the time away from work, gas to get to the venue, and maybe even a hotel to spend the night.  These things cost money.

So INETA thought: instead of paying a single person $1000 (I’m rounding here…) for one talk.  Let’s pay several people a maximum of $200 to go out into their local communities and speak.  That's usually enough to cover a tank of gas, and a night in a hotel.

The Community Speakers program was born.

There are currently a couple hundred speakers registered with INETA on a variety of topics.  A user group leader can request anyone, and there is a defined workflow between the group leader and the speaker (with INETA as a mediator).

Tweaking the System

User feedback has been very much appreciated by the INETA board.  The process is being tweaked based off our feedback, and it’s only getting better.  However, the one complaint I’ve heard is that leaders don’t know how to use the Community Speaker request application.

In the rest of this post, I’m going show you step-by-step how to request a speaker.

STEP 1 – Log in to INETA

Go to http://www.ineta.org, and log in to your account (the only your user group is registered under).  If you’re unable to do this, please contact your INETA mentor (feel free to contact me if you don’t know who that is).

STEP 2 – Find the Community Speakers area

Menu Option

Find the SPEAKERS menu, and select '”Search for and Request a Speaker”.

STEP 3 – Filter your search

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Maybe you want someone to talk about ASP.NET or Silverlight.  Here is the place to do it.  Also, the state dropdown will show you states the speakers have agreed to travel to.  If your user group is in Virginia, I’d recommend selecting Virginia.  Press search!

STEP 4 – Find a Speaker

Now you’ll see a list of speakers who are registered with INETA, and are willing to travel to your state.

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Additionally, you’ll see links to the person’s website and blog.  Also, MVPs are designated by their MVP logo.

If you want more information, click the Details link.  This will show you more information about a particular speaker, such as the topics they’ll speak on.

If you want to continue straight to the invitation, select Invite.

STEP 5 – Invitation

For this example, I’m going to invite my friend Joel Cochran to my user group (Note, Joel is scheduled to come to HRNUG anyway, so it’s perfect timing).

On the invitation screen, I see a list of what Joel will talk about, and I can select from that list.  Also, I need to provide 3 dates that are open for Joel.  In case Joel can’t make the first date, he can choose another.

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When you’re all done, press Submit Request.

STEP 6 – Success

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At this time, emails are automatically being sent.  If the speaker accepts or denies the request, you’ll receive an email.  You can also monitor the request by going to the “Community Speaker Requests” section of INETA.  It’s located underneath the Search option in the menu.

Menu Option

STEP 7 – After The Talk

When the talk is over, you’ll be asked to confirm that the speaker showed up and also to rate them.  This is the most important step, since it completes the workflow and the speaker will get paid.  Please don’t forget to do this.

Conclusion

I really hope this has been helpful for you in learning how to request speakers for your user’s group.  The whole process really only takes 5 minutes (if even that), and most of it is automated.

As a tip, talk to the speakers before going through the INETA process.  Make sure they are available and discuss options for the talk.  Not only will you build a better relationship with the speaker, but they’ll be more likely to work with you.

Finally, I am registered as a Community Speaker and I’m available to speak at user groups in the VA, NC, MD area.  I’m booked out from now to June 2011, but if you’d like for me to come to your group, just head to my INETA page here and request me.  The link is also available on the right side of my blog.

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