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After spending countless hours on pre-event calls, juggling time zones, navigating the event schedule, and wrangling topics for panels and speeches alike, a few weeks following VeeCon, I finally get to share a bit of the extraordinary journey I embarked on: booking 200+ speakers over two days for a single event.

A daunting exercise? Absolutely. Impossible? Apparently not.

Organizing a conference is similar to conducting an orchestra; every instrument (or in this case, speaker) plays a crucial role in creating a harmonious, enlightening, and engaging experience. I’m typically sitting on the other side of the table, and helping events find one or more speakers. Yet, for VeeCon, I was responsible for building an impressive lineup of speakers using Gary Vaynerchuk’s relationships and culture graph.

Here are a few of the things I learned along the way:

#1. An Endeavour in Empathy and Understanding

The task of inviting 200 luminaries to share their knowledge and wisdom in a single setting is not just an exercise in planning. It’s an exploration of human interests, capabilities, and desires. Every speaker has a unique story to tell, a distinct perspective to offer. Your role as an organizer is to understand, and respect these nuances while ensuring it aligns with the event’s goals. The challenge lies in striking a balance, keeping the event cohesive yet diverse. We do our best to let the speakers dictate the message, and build sessions that are more unique than typical events. We are after more personal insights than the usual sound bites and business speak. Allowing our speakers to be authentic and original takes significant empathy and understanding, but also quite a bit of flexibility.

#2. Mastering the Art of Persistence

Not every call will lead to a ‘yes’. Persistence is the name of the game. Anticipate a barrage of polite declines, scheduling conflicts, and last-minute cancellations. Every reason someone can’t join, is a new challenge to overcome, not the end of the conversation. Getting creative with travel, timing, and session formats, helped expand our lineup. Remember, most desirable speakers have extremely busy schedules. It’s not about whether someone is available, but whether they can make themselves available for the right opportunity, and showing them how and why your event is the right opportunity.

#3. Navigating Time Zones and Calendars

With speakers scattered across the globe, coordination becomes a feat. You’ll quickly become adept at time zone conversions, fitting round pegs into square holes, and finessing the art of calendar Tetris. As I often said, building a schedule of 200+ speakers is like building a 3-D puzzle, except you don’t get to start with all the pieces in the box. It’s a test of your negotiation skills, your patience, and your ability to make compromises that respect everyone’s needs. Creativity again plays a key role in building a schedule that not only works for your speakers, but creates enjoyable sessions for your attendees.

#4. The Joy of Networking

While it may seem a daunting task, booking this many speakers provides an unparalleled opportunity for networking. You are, essentially, in the privileged position of connecting with some of the most accomplished individuals in their fields, and those around them who help amplify their success. It’s an experience that broadens horizons, sparks ideas, and often leads to lifelong relationships. It also takes conversations with close to 500 different speakers to land more than 200 speakers. That includes conversations with representatives, assistants, lawyers, managers, agents, and everyone in between. Treating everyone with respect, offering transparency, and using my experience from being in their shoes proved to be most helpful.

#5. The Elation of Achievement and Appreciation of The Team

Finally, after the hundreds of hours spent in negotiation, organization, and preparation, seeing your event come together is a reward unlike any other. My portion was but a small aspect of the larger event, and I did not do this alone. Having a team to work with is not only a joy as the event comes together, but watching each speaker take the stage, knowing the Herculean effort it took to bring them there, is an incredible feeling. Every talk delivered, every idea shared, validates your efforts and makes the journey worthwhile. Being able to share that feeling with your team makes it even more memorable.

This endeavor taught me that booking 200+ speakers is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s a painstaking yet immensely rewarding process that involves much more than simply sending invitations. It’s a crash course in diplomacy, persistence, patience, negotiation, networking, and most importantly, understanding and appreciating individuality.

The next time you attend a conference, take a moment to appreciate the orchestra of voices harmonizing in front of you. Behind each voice is an intricate tapestry of stories, painstakingly woven together by an organizer who dared to dream big, and multiple teams behind the scenes bringing those dreams to life!

After all, we’re all here to learn, grow and share ideas, aren’t we?