February 25, 2019

5 Ways Speaker Management Software Can Improve Your Next Conference

If you find it challenging to create an event agenda year after year that captures your members’ interests and provides value, you’re not alone. In a 2018 survey by American Express, 89 percent of B2B event planners said one of their top challenges is landing great speakers.

Often it falls on the event planning or membership staff to lead the process of brainstorming topics, putting out a call for abstracts, and managing the vetting process. To complicate matters, you have to juggle the input of event committee members who have their own full-time jobs. And the work isn’t done after speaker selection. There’s a long list of to dos after that: collecting bios, approving materials, coordinating payment. It’s a lot.

That’s where speaker management software comes in. Let’s talk about five ways a smart technology investment can transform your planning process and make a big impact on the quality of your speakers. And most importantly, help you design conferences that will boost your association’s prestige as a leader in your industry.

1. Encourage More Applicants

Put yourself in the shoes of your speakers for a moment. Wouldn’t you agree that an organized, online application form would be an incentive to apply? It makes a great first impression. You’re sending the message that your event team communicates well and is committed to a positive experience for the speaker.

Using speaker management software allows you to create a customized set of questions in a convenient online form. You can add clear instructions, word count limits, and other guides to help speakers submit their best proposal. To save both you and the speaker time, you could also include checkboxes with requirements. That way, the applicant doesn’t advance through the process without meeting certain criteria. Using an online system also makes it easy for speakers to upload reference materials in one place, which is useful when they have a variety of media formats like video clips or podcast recordings.

You can continue this positive impression through automated emails to keep speakers informed about the status of their application and remind about upcoming deadlines. You can also quickly notify all declined speakers at once with a templated email. These steps will build goodwill in the speaker community, making your association a sought-after engagement.

2. Diversity in Speakers

In a study of more than 60,000 presenters at events over the past five years, women made up just 31 percent of conference speakers. In fact, this is such a common complaint by conference attendees that there’s a Tumblr blog where people can upload photos of conferences with all male panels to express their annoyance and push for more diversity.

So how can speaker management software help your association raise the bar for more speaker diversity? There are a few ways.

  • Create a diversity dashboard to view submissions based on a list of attributes such as race, gender, and other demographics. You’ll be able to see where you need to do more outreach and quickly notice if your selections are skewed toward a certain group.

  • Set up blind reviews to remove bias during the selection process. You might consider blacking out applicant name, race, gender, education, and age, so your team is judging solely based on skills and experience.

3. Streamline the Candidate Selection Process

Speaker management software can save time-strapped association staff from repetitive tasks. With an online submission process, you can say goodbye to your overloaded inbox full of applications and millions of attachments. No more tedious data entry into spreadsheets or worrying about where to save everything. Speaker proposals are safely stored in the cloud, easily accessible by your entire team as soon as the applicant hits the submit button.

When evaluating different technologies, think about your ideal application workflow first. Keep in mind that flexibility is key. Although certain workflows are common when it comes to application-based processes, every association has unique requirements. You don’t want a lot of workarounds that make it just as difficult as the manual process. Zengine uses minimal code for that reason. This allows our team to configure a solution for nearly any process or challenge.

4. Improve the Decisions of the Selection Process

While saving time is important, the real value of adopting speaker management software is the ability to make better decisions. As any event planner knows, decision-making by committee isn’t easy - and it’s a bit like herding cats. Selecting speakers is an example of what management consultant McKinsey calls cross-cutting decisions. They define this as “a series of small, interconnected decisions made by different groups.” These decisions require a lot of collaboration and can have big impact on the organization. So how can speaker management software help?

Imagine being able to send your association volunteers to a custom, branded reviewer portal. They’d log in, see their assigned speakers to review, and access all submission attachments in one place. With automated reminders and easy-to-use reports, you can keep your committee on track and give them a bird’s eye view of the conference speaker selection status. You can also define an objective scoring system and manage multiple levels of review. With a clear process, you can avoid vague discussions about individual preferences and groupthink tendencies. You and your committee will feel more confident in the final decisions.

5. Improve Speaker/Event Planner Communications

Once you’ve selected your speakers, it’s time for conference session management. This is often a game of email tag, with questions being volleyed back and forth. But just like the application process, speaker management software can save the day.

Design your own online forms so speakers can submit their bios, upload session content, and collaborate on room and equipment details. Set up automated speaker reminders so you have what you need to update your website and meet printing deadlines. Pull status reports on the fly for your Executive Director and Board without scrambling to update spreadsheets and copy something into PowerPoint. And once the conference is over, you can send automated emails to solicit feedback on their experience, giving you the ability to capture everything in one place.


Hopefully you’re starting to see the potential. You probably began researching speaker management software because it will clearly save you time. But as you can see, it can also have a big impact on communications, decision-making, and the quality of your speakers. All of which will make your conferences better and your association stronger.   


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