The Obligation of the Selection Committee

Continuation of 2 previous posts –

I have just come from a very busy two months of conferencing opportunities and have a bit of a breather before they begin again in late spring/early summer.

And as I listen to keynote speakers and presenters….I admit, I have become a bit of a snoot.  It is not that I expect to be “entertained” but I do expect to be inspired, encouraged, motivated, and pushed a bit out of my comfort zone.  (hopefully you feel the same)

So….as I, and many of my fellow audience attendees, are gearing up for upcoming conferences… are some suggestions for the selection committee….

1.  Content is much more valuable than name
Perhaps it is just me, but I don’t decide whether to attend a conference based on the keynote….(in fact, gasp, sometimes I don’t even go to the keynote.)
So please don’t let the NAME DROPPING FACTOR outweigh the importance of their content.
We want someone relevant….sincere…..thought-provoking….and enthusiastic for education…..not just a name we can brag that we heard.

2.  Be diversified
Look for content but also be aware of your options.
There are very good women keynote speakers out there….yes there are.
There are very good keynote speakers  that are NOT from North America.
There are very good keynote speakers who are not Caucasian.
There are very good keynote speakers who are …..  (you can fill in the blank.)

3.  Be aware of the audience
You will never find any keynote speaker that is appreciated by all….but be aware that the people in the audience have a variety of differences and the keynote podium should NOT be a soapbox for the keynote’s personal beliefs — just so they can nag on things.
Sharing your thoughts is respectable, alienating the audience due to your personal agenda is not.

4.  Do not pay them to keynote JUST to promote their new book or product
Almost all the time, the keynote’s bio will mention his/her book — as well as slides within their presentation…..but the keynote should not be the time to sell their book.   Can they mention a few parts of their book — sure, that might be the reason they were chosen to present — but to go on and on and on about “what they did” is not keynote material.

5.  Do NOT book a keynote speaker who is not willing to be streamed
The keynote speaker should be MORE than willing for their content to be offered beyond the auditorium…if they are not, look elsewhere.

6.  Book the keynote speaker for 2 more hours AFTER the keynote
Too many keynote speakers fly in and fly out.  They have a book signing and then POOF they are gone.   Please extend the keynote’s time by 2 hours for a question/answer time AFTER they keynote.  Perhaps put them on a panel of others — so they are not now a bulls-eye — but extend the conversation.  I, myself, often have questions and need some clarifications after the keynote and an immediate follow-up would be appreciated.

7.  Have a place for resources
Provide an online location for the presenter to share their content….as soon as possible after the session/keynote.

8.  Invite student voices!
We want to hear from students……We need to hear from students.

9.  Have enough seats
or look back to suggestion 5.
There is nothing worse than walking to a keynote session and finding out that there is no room left.
This might be understandable for a session — but not the keynote.   You know your expected audience count — so make sure you have the room OR
look back to suggestion 5 and have alternate locations posted.

10.  Know that we appreciate your hard work
It is impossible to make everyone happy….but we know you really want to offer your attendees the best conference opportunity you can — and keynotes are an important part.
Know that even though we might not remember to say THANKS, we do thank you for working hard to make this conference a success for us.

Feel free to share your thoughts —
and go ahead and Name Drop some Keynote Speakers you think should be heard!

Thank you for extending the conversation.


This post was a series of 3 posts:
The Obligation of the Presenter

The Obligation of the Audience

The Obligation of the Selection Committee



  1. Lori Abrahams says:

    Thanks again for your ideas – ICE has tried to keep these ideas in mind, but need to be reminded sometimes to check these off in our selection process.

  2. Lori Abrahams says:

    OH Jen – you’ve steered ICE to some great new spotlight speakers in the past – so your suggestions would greatly be appreciated as well!

  3. Lee says:

    Hi Jen,
    Your post is great advice and I hope conference conveners will take note. I disagree with you on the point about keynotes being willing to be streamed. In some (many) cases, keynoting is their livelihood and streaming means giving it away for free. There are also some cases where keynotes might share photos and work of students and although they may have permission to share, posting on the Internet is a different animal. By streaming, as you know, anyone can capture and you lose control of your content.

    Our conference always includes a mix of people who are willing to be broadcast. There is the option of no broadcast, broadcast to public, broadcast within our closed system (out to schools) and/or recording and posting archive. Unfortunately, most keynotes do not attend out of the goodness of their hearts. At a minimum, travel and housing should be covered.

  4. Jennifer says:

    Hi Lee

    I understand your thoughts on their “livelihood” but I still struggle with those who make HUGE amounts of $$ that just deliver the same content over and over and over again. That is not livelihood, to me, that is taking the easy way.

    Perhaps I am totally wrong here — but I know that MANY of us — who perhaps make a couple of hundred (maybe) per session or per conference — always ALWAYS are generating new content….not just to stay current but also because we don’t want to be a “one trick presenter”.

    And if we are doing this — those who are making minimum amounts….often paying our own travel, food, lodging — YET still creating new content OFTEN……

    could we not also expect that from those who are making THOUSANDS or TENS OF THOUSANDS or MORE by giving keynotes??

    I believe we should.

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