A Different Process: Speakers before Agenda

As a regular event producer, I’ve been through quite a number of methods of conference production: bootleg and giant team, corporate and casual, etc.  But I was pleasantly surprised to see the way the SF MusicTech Summit is produced.  Rather than create a strict agenda of panel topics and times, Brian lines up an AMAZING list of all-star musicians, founders, and leaders in the music and technology industries, and determines the topics from there.

What does this mean for the panelists?

Now this can, at times, be slightly more stressful for the panelists, as we cannot immediately tell them what they will be speaking on.  However, it is always Brian’s drive to talk with them and develop panels ideal for their level of expertise, so this does work out in the end.  While panelists may have less time than usual to prepare, we do still facilitate an introduction between the moderator and panelists early enough for ideas to be thrown around, topics chosen, questions asked, and a great panel to form.

So what does this mean for the agenda?

It means the agenda covers actual existing topics that panelists are experts in; topics we also think will be interesting.  It means we can discuss with our panelists what they – the leaders in the industry – think the important subjects are, rather than make guesses and take time trying to force people to fit.  It means we develop an eclectic agenda – sometimes a bit discombobulated at first – with a huge variety of talking points that we, as a team of 3, could never have developed on our own.  It makes the agenda a collaborative project, rather than a dictatorial document.

What does this mean for the attendees?

True, it can be stressful for attendees as well, since they are unable to plan their day until a few days prior to the event.  However, it also means you are truly seeing THE leaders in the field of music and technology, talking on the subjects THEY want to discuss.  It means we have not A) tried to force a subject down a panelist’s throat or B) found a not-so-qualified individual just because we need a topic we think is important covered.  For example, we’ll have folks like:

And finally, what does it mean for the organizers?

Well okay.  As the production manager, it stresses me out a bit.  I like knowing what my schedule will be, having panelists finalized in nice little spreadsheet boxes and times, and it’s a bit unnerving to have all these unknowns.  But it’s also a challenge, and I wouldnt be a freelance contractor or entrepreneur if I didn’t like having that in my life now and then, eh?

Written by Cass Phillipps, leading startup event coordinator and writer of the popular event blog, WebWallflower.

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