Community Conference Organizer Tip: How to Get More Out of Town Speakers

Are you a community conference organizer and want to attract more speakers from out of town? 2020 is right around the corner, and I have a tip for you…

Around the 2015 to 2016 time frame, when I would go speak at a community conference (run by software developers and usually free or very low cost), before my trip I would post on Facebook that I am coming into town and asked if anyone was willing to put me up (provide a room) for a few nights. I must admit that I really don’t like staying in hotel rooms when I travel to speak at a conference. Most of the time I spend it alone which is very boring, isolating and just a lot of extra work and stress. I’d much rather hang out with someone I know, and heck, maybe I’ll even get a home cooked meal out of it!

I never got any takers and was about to give up, until I posted that I am speaking at the Code Camp in North Carolina in October of 2016. I heard back from someone who I previously worked at with at a company here in San Diego. Even though he worked remotely from North Carolina, we were work friends and he was the developer I liked best on our team since he always spoke his mind. If you know me, then you know that I do too!

Something else I have started doing when I speak at conferences is to try as hard as I can to spend an extra day or so, so I can learn more about the area and even do some sightseeing. This is even more important if I have never been to that city or country. This trip in 2016 to North Carolina was no different. I came in a day early to do just that. Even though I am originally from the east coast of the US, I don’t have any recollection that I have ever been to North Carolina.

My friend owns a four-story house next to a lake and he has a boat. The day before the conference he, his wife, his four-year-old son and I took his boat out on that lake. I had so much fun! And it is a very beautiful area. Each evening we would sit around the kitchen table and talk about all kinds of subjects. When his wife got tired, he and I would stay up later and geek out. I played Legos a few times with his son which took me back to my childhood. One of the first things that I won when I was in grade school was an award from the Lego company for something I built and sent in a photo. They also just turned their basement into a bedroom, and I was the first occupant. And I did get a few home cooked meals along the way!

I took this photo from my friend’s boat.

There is more to my visit, but I think I have made my point. This was one of my best trips speaking at a conference, due to visiting and staying at my friend’s house. So, conference organizers, why not do this to attract more out of town speakers? I would think that many geeks would like to offer up their home in order to get more speakers and to hang out with one of them. The biggest cost of traveling to a conference usually isn’t the airfare, it’s the hotel room and rental car. By offering this to out of town speakers, I guarantee that you will get more session submissions. 

I’m so convinced that this will work, that I will make this offer for 2020…

If you run a community conference, anywhere in the United States, that I haven’t spoken at previously, I will use my airline miles to fly to your city. As long as I can stay with you or one of your organizers and you provide travel to and from the airport. The first conference that contacts me, and it works with my schedule, will help me prove this idea. I’ll even make one of my “dotNetDave Goes To…” videos. Contact me as soon as you can to schedule.

If you do try this at your conference and it works out, let me know by making a comment below.

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