Inside Skepticon – Speaker Fight!

Inside Skepticon – Speaker Fight!

Second meeting of the year, and it’s time for the speaker fight! If you’re imagining PZ Myers punching out Matt Dillahunty, you’re seriously on the wrong track. (Plus you’ve clearly never met either of them. They’re super awesome, and would never hurt a fly. Okay, PZ might, but only in a professional capacity.)

Anyway, what I’m really saying is that we get together and argue over which speakers to invite this year. Everyone brings their list, and polishes their elevator pitches. (Or … just kinda wings it.) Typically, upwards of 100 names are thrown out, making this one of the longest meetings of the year.

Each organizer or volunteer starts with their top pick, and then we go around again and again until we run out of names, or until we get dizzy and fall off. Several of us may have independently come up with the same person, which boosts that speaker’s status. Many other picks get shot down quickly, and that can be rough on the one making the suggestion.

We include the nominations from attendees and past speakers, which we collect during the conference. (Drop some names in the suggestion box, please. We really do read them!)

All during the year we also get speaker recommendations in our emails, twitters, and faceboxes. Some are good, some are less helpful, and some are decidedly … odd. We just got another in that last category a few days ago. Claiming to have a speaker on a topic that skeptics have overlooked, the email contained a barrage of links to what appears to be another Sovereign Citizen variant.

So, yeah, we try to check out our speaker candidates before inviting them. We look for talks they have given in the past, to see if they know their stuff and can speak to a crowd. We look to see if their topics are things that we’re excited to hear about, that they contribute to a good variety of viewpoints, that their values don’t clash with ours, and that they like dinosaurs.

That last one is really the only deal breaker for us.

Back at the meeting, we decide which candidates to put ahead of others in the order that we extend invitations. This isn’t necessarily according to who we most want to appear. Some speakers book up far in advance, and we try to put them closer to the front so we have a better shot at them being available for Skepticon.

When it’s all over, Lauren takes it from there. She reaches out to the speakers in the order we decided, and gains their trust. Slowly, over the course of days or weeks, she lures them into our trap. Her patience is legendary, as is her tracking skill. If you receive an email from Lauren saying “Hey, wanna come speak at Skepticon? <3” your only hope is to say yes.

P.S. Your donations are what make Skepticon 10 possible, so you are the the ones we fight for! And if you really want to lighten our stress levels, please donate to our legal defense fund!

Leave a Reply