Thursday, April 18, 2013

Speak at the 2013 Lean Startup Conference

This post was written by Sarah Milstein, co-host of The Lean Startup Conference.

Exciting news: we’ve nailed down dates for The Lean Startup Conference 2013. We’re holding it December 9 – 11 in San Francisco, with sessions at the Nob Hill Masonic Center and the Fairmont Hotel, a half-block away. This is the fourth year of the conference, and we’re acting on feedback last year’s attendees shared with us: as Lean Startup practices have evolved, you want in-depth talks, new speakers with fresh stories, and more time for structured networking and mentoring. So we’ve added an extra day and expanded into two larger venues--giving us the chance to offer hands-on breakout sessions, increase your chances of meeting fellow entrepreneurs with events that let you share ideas and learn together, and create active mentoring opportunities with real experts.

While we’ll have announcements before long about our keynotes, our focus right now is finding the other 95% of speakers for this year—most of whom we don’t already know. We know Lean Startup methods are being applied by people around the globe, in startups and established organizations alike, and in sectors of every stripe. This conference has always been about entrepreneurs helping entrepreneurs, and most of the work is now being done by people we haven’t heard about. To find the great stories out there that other people can learn from, we’re opening our call for speakers today, and we’re seeking practitioners who are doing the real work, whether they’ve ever spoken at a conference before.

Just like last year, we're committed to having a merit-based speaker selection process. This is different from most conferences, so if you'd like to learn more about it, we've included details below. When you're ready to apply, check out our short application form.

Last year, we made a fairly big deal about looking for speakers outside our own networks. We noted that in previous years, the speakers had been excellent but had been limited to the pool of people Eric knew directly—and that had turned out to be mostly white men. When we broadened our search and aimed to find people based on the merit of their stories (rather than based on their proximity to us), we wound up with a speaker roster comprising approximately 40% women and 25% people of color - without using quotas. 

We mention this now because we think that too many people don’t apply to speak at conferences because they make a reasonable assumption that they won’t be accepted. Our past record demonstrates that we’re committed to creating a transparent, merit-based selection process that not only serves applicants fairly but also delivers great ideas for attendees.

So how we can find people we don’t yet know who have very useful experiences we can all learn from? By asking all of you to help us find them, encourage them to apply, and convince them their stories are worth hearing.

Here’s the deal: If you have a Lean Startup experience to share--regardless of whether you’ve ever spoken publicly before--we ask that you propose a talk via our short application form. We require that you submit your idea in the form of a short video, but as the application explains, we don’t care at all about the quality of the video.

If you don't think you're qualified to speak at a conference like this, you're probably wrong! Most of our amazing speakers also feel that way. In fact, this is a well-documented and universal 
psychological feeling. So we hope you'll consider applying anyway. For new speakers we select, we’ll provide hands-on help developing presentations, plus speaker training. 

A few notes: 

* Although it's impossible to review a video blind (your speaking ability part of what we’re evaluating), we promise to review the written part of your application without being able to see for your name, ethnicity, sex or age. (This is the blind resume screening technique Eric has recommended elsewhere.)

* The Lean Startup Conference is a no-hype, no-launch event. Publicists and those seeking PR and media attention should look elsewhere.

* As you're refining your talk idea, bear in mind this IMPORTANT point: when we refer to "the Lean Startup," we mean specifically the set of ideas that Eric and others have articulated for testing, validating, and learning quickly. It's NOT about running a small company or a shoestring operation (though those can be smart things to do!), and we are NOT looking for talks about how to bootstrap or run a business on the cheap. 

* Our attendees are entrepreneurs of all kinds - venture backed, bootstrappers, even entrepreneurs in corporate and government settings. We are seeking talks aimed at all segments of our audience: corporate entrepreneurs; educators; government innovators; non-profit and social impact leaders; and developers. The application form lets you tell us if your idea is of particular benefit to folks in these groups.

* We’re interested in all kinds of Lean Startup stories that other people can learn from. A straight-up story about how you followed Lean Startup principles at your organization and did pretty well with them is not useful for other entrepreneurs. Instead, tell us what you’ve learned. For example, if you’ve done lots of customer development, don’t suggest a talk reporting that; instead, tell us how you now do customer development in an unusual way that others might find useful. Or share what didn't work, or what took you by surprise. Or explain the obstacles you uncovered in applying Lean Startup in a counter-intuitive context, like a regulated industry. Or describe tactics that you’ve refined in an innovative way--say, a new take on A/B testing or continuous deployment.

* Do follow the directions in the application form and read them first before emailing questions. Seriously.

* The deadline is Thurs, May 9 at midnight PT. It's now Thurs, May 16; we extended the deadline after Kathy Sierra volunteered to provide training for our speakers.

If you work with somebody--particularly a woman, person of color, or anybody else typically under-represented at tech conferences--who has relevant experience to share, please show them this post. Note, too, that we’re looking for speakers from all sectors. Again, 
here’s the new form. We look forward to learning from you.

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