How Do You Find The Best Content For Your Events: Examples From SXSW, TED and Summit Series

The SXSW Panel Picker process ended last night, exactly one hour before I finished my application, and after going through the long application form it got me thinking: what’s the best way to find the greatest content for your event?

SXSW has a pretty grueling multi-part application with visual requirements, and they ensure you fill out just about everything they’ll ever need to know just in case you do end up getting picked.

I have to believe that the application itself weeds out a large number of people, which could be a good thing. At the same time, I wonder if they end up missing some great people that don’t fill out the form because they’re not used to or ready to have all the questions and details worked out in July when the actual talk isn’t till the next year in March.

Yes, I realize that the Panel Picker isn’t the only way they get content and that I’m sure they go after great content they find as well.  I don’t think Sean Parker from last year was filling out a form.

So, SXSW has an intense application and voting process, this year TED used auditions for a portion of what will be their final speaker list but they’ve always relied on their network of curators and TEDx events for their content, Summit Series waits for their members to nominate others, and there are plenty of events that have open calls for content or are actively reaching out to folks to offer them something in return for being a part of their event.

  • What’s your opinion on what methods to find content/speakers/etc. for an event works best?
  • How do you find the lesser known, amazing content?
  • How do you balance ways to weed out the less committed but entice those that won’t be able to spend an enormous amount of time filling out a form?
  • What type of content or sessions would you include in your event: speakers, panels, mentor sessions, hands-on workshops, Q&A, what else?
  • After getting a list of possible content how do you choose your final agenda?

Looking for any advice and insight you might have, curating content is a skill that I think should continue to be developed.  The models mentioned before are great examples of the various ways it’s done and ones that make sense for those particular events but I’d love to hear your other suggestions for any type of event.

Matt Kane

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