Death of the professional speaker? Will never happen

I was listening to Ted Neward on Hanselminutes from the NDC, and he mentions that local conferences are taking away from professional conferences like VSLive and DevConnections.   His hypothesis is that if these professional conferences go away, then capable speakers will not have the incentive to go around teaching.

Scott Bellware aptly countered that the South by Southwest conference has thousands of enthusiastic attendees and is getting stronger every year.  His notion is that the conference must be compelling.

Whether you call it Capitalism or Darwinism, I agree with Scott.  It is up to the conference to offer a compelling experience.  The conference is selling a product, and the product has to have a value proposition.  If struggling conferences can’t provide a value proposition, then they will simply lose market share to other conferences that do.

I don’t think death will ever come to the professional speaker.  The conference venues may change, but it will change as a reaction to changes in the market.  I became a professional speaker in 2007, and I am confident that I will always find compelling conference venues in which to participate.


mknopf said on 6.19.2009 at 8:33 AM


I agree completely, conferences that bring value which exceeds its prices (easy for the Free local conferences like Code Camps) will continue to thrive. While speaking may not by itself allow one to make a great living it does lead to other perks (such as great jobs) to do.

Andrew Siemer said on 6.23.2009 at 2:46 PM


Do you have a path for someone like myself to follow to become a "professional speaker"? I like you served in the military, got geeked out over time, have a passion for programming, etc. I love to teach, write, and spread the word about doing things the right way. How do I take that next step to becoming a speaker at a conference?

Thanks for your time,


Jeffrey Palermo said on 6.23.2009 at 9:19 PM


Step 1: Speak at a small venue. i.e. team lunch-n-learn, etc

Step 2: Speak at multiple user groups

Step 3: Submit talks to professional conferences.

Christian Gross said on 6.26.2009 at 5:54 PM

I wish to disagree. I have been speaking since 1996 and the death of the professional speaker is here. Blame it on Google, Internet, Open Source, whatever. All of these technologies have changed the game.

Look at CNN, it relies on Twitter. Look at all of these journalists complaining about bloggers. Look at Huffington post which is nothing more than a commentary site.

Times have changed and things are different. I am not crying over split milk because that is the nature of the beast... I already shifted and changed...