Every year around the same time, the emails start piling up, inviting you to register for the year's conference season. Whether it's an international tradeshow in Vegas or an intimate two-day retreat in Aspen, determining what to attend can be a project all its own.

Before deciding, take a minute to think: How do conference leaders determine which speakers will bring something new to a conference, and which speakers aren't among just the same-old faces?

It's all about spotting the new names before they get big, keeping your conference spend specific to your goals, and matching your expectations to the speaker and event itself.

Based on my 10 years as an organizer of industry events, here are four easy ways to vet a conference you're considering attending to make sure you'll get what you're looking for.

1. Take a chance on new names

Sure, it's fun to brag about having seen industry influencers, social media celebrities, big-name investors, or entertainment hotshots. But popular names can highly inflate ticket prices to accommodate the speakers' costs.

If you're looking to learn, gain value, and put into practice knowledge you've gained at a conference, take a chance on a name who has a strong following and background—but hasn't spoken at every event on your industry roster. You'll get a lot more return on your ticket investment.

For example, SEMpdx's annual conference, Engage (formerly SearchFest), has been successful booking speakers who are on the rise rather than hitting their professional plateau. We were one of the first to book author and entrepreneur Marty Weintraub. We were impressed with his online presence and his work growing digital marketing agency, Aimclear. Though there were bigger names on the agenda, we had the most positive feedback from attendees on Weintraub's session.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
image of Alan George

Alan George is the president of SEMpdx and marketing manager of Columbia Steel Casting Co. He has 10+ years of experience organizing events for business leaders. He spearheaded the rebranding of SEMpdx's annual digital marketing conference, Engage, to reflect the evolution of the industry.

Twitter at @superalan