“I need a speaker” is a service that connects experts with audiences, by making it easy to locate speakers using search tools based on subject matter, location, fee, affiliation, name, etc. “I need a speaker” is a US based startup where anyone across the world, not just the US, can create a profile and appear in the pool of speakers. Speakers do not need to be academics nor experts per se: the platform is not a regular booking agency or speakers bureau. It rather aims to add to the diversity of the stories that are given public platforms, and to bring the amplification of new voices.
Preparing to launch “I need a speaker”, founder and CEO Tricia Richards-Service found that about 65% of conference speakers are white males. She thought this situation could be improved. Not by asking them to step down, but by facilitating other types of voices to speak up. That is why “I need a speaker” does not charge the usual fees involved in transactions with booking agencies, which often cut out certain non-professional event organizers for charities or classroom discussions. And conversely, may not accept in their speakers pool people without specific qualifications, but with a message or personal story to share.
“I need a speaker” welcomes everyone: to date, the speakers pool includes academics, industry people, and people with a personal story like overcoming a traumatic experience. For example, Tricia says, the pool includes someone who has overcome homelessness, and now talks about their experience. It is very inspiring to people. The pool also includes experts on gen-x, higher education, law, COVID, astronomy… virtually any topic that can be discussed.
The venue for discussion does not need to be a conference. It can be a podcast, a live stream, television, talk-show, panel discussion, or a classroom discussion. “It’s all about finding the right fit,” says Tricia.
The startup was launched in August 2020, and with the spike in virtual gatherings, it seems like that was a fortunate time for this enterprise. Travel restrictions meant more online events, with the possibility to book a speaker from anywhere in the world, allowing the perfect match between speaker and audience.