No More Gurus! 10 Great Online Keynotes

Read this Quora post about “interesting speakers on social media.” It features some of the most well known voices touting each other. It was disappointing to see the same old same old, including the usual lack of recommended female speakers (8 out of 41), which is astounding given that more than half of social media communicators are women.

The “guru” circle consists of consultants and service providers who market to organizations that need social media and online communications services. One could argue a conflict of interest, but on top of it, many lack the inside experiences within major organizations and cultures. Insiders fight a much different battle getting their organizations to open up and become more networked than the ones faced by outside consultants.

What would happen if conference organizers automatically eliminated the talking head consultant gurus with their vested interest in looking good? Who would be left to discuss online media? Here’s a list of ten suggested speakers that would be great keynotes for conferences abut online media trends and developments (including social):

Amra Tamren, founder and CEO, Allvoices


Amra’s Allvoices is the largest global community offering local to global news and perspectives in one place. Launched in July of 2008, Allvoices is the fastest growing open media site with over 4.7M unique users per month and 300,000 citizen reporters from over 180 countries. Prior to Allvoices, Amra was a partner at Sevin Rosen Funds focusing on investment opportunities in the communications infrastructure and next-generation carriers. And having spoken with her on a panel in the past, she definitely has the chops.

Andrew Rasiej, founder, Personal Democracy Forum

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Andrew Rasiej is the Founder of Personal Democracy Forum , an annual conference and community website about the intersection of politics and technology. He is also the co-founder of techPresident, an award winning group blog that covers how the 2008 presidential candidates are using the web, and how content generated by voters is affecting the campaign. He has served as an advisor to Senators and Congressman and political candidates on the use of Information Technology for campaign and policy purposes since 1999. Having seen him speak privately and publicly on three occasions, he’s fantastic.

Andy Carvin, senior strategist, NPR


Before taking a digital (and social) lead at NPR, Andy Carvin was the founding editor and former coordinator of the Digital Divide Network, an online community of more than 10,000 Internet activists in over 140 countries working to bridge the digital divide. He is also an active blogger as well as a field correspondent to the vlog Rocketboom. Andy Carvin was one of the cofounders of the CrisisCommons movement, and is also a fantastic speaker.

Christopher Barger, director, social media, GM


Christopher Barger (image by C.C. Chapman) has been through a few wars, first with GM’s bankruptcy, the crawl back to the public marketplace, the launch of the Volt, etc. But beyond that before GM, he helped IBM make its way into the social media era with its well discussed blogging culture and other social initiatives. Barger is joining the ranks of social media authors, but one of the few authors who has done it from the inside the corporate walls. Twice.

Gina Bianchini, co-founder, Ning


Gina Bianchini founded one of the more successful social network properties on the web. Prior to Ning, Bianchini was co-founder and president of Harmonic Communications which was acquired by Dentsu. She has also held positions at CKS Group and Goldman Sachs & Co. A successful innovator and executive, Bianchini would be a fantastic speaker for any conference.

Jay Rosen, professor of journalism, NYU


You wanna talk media? There can be no more authoritative, brilliant speaker than Jay Rosen. Jay Rosen has been on the journalism faculty at New York University since 1986; from 1999 to 2005 he served as chair of the Department. He lives in New York City. Rosen is the author of PressThink, a weblog about journalism and its ordeals, which he introduced in September 2003. In June 2005, PressThink won the Reporters Without Borders 2005 Freedom Blog award for outstanding defense of free expression.

Michael Smith, vice president of social innovation, Case Foundation


Michael Smith (pictured at the right) touches many projects for the Case Foundation focusing on creating a better digital web for causes. Some of his work includes supporting the CEO on economic development efforts in the Palestinian West Bank and leading the Foundation’s efforts to tap “citizen-centered” approaches to civic engagement, including its new grant program, the Make It Your Own Awards™. Prior to joining the Case Foundation, he spent a decade helping build foundations and national initiatives aimed at bridging the “digital divide.” He is a stellar speaker in person.

Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook

Sandberg is second-in-command at Facebook and oversees the firm’s business operations including sales, marketing, business development, human resources, public policy and communications. Prior to Facebook, Sheryl was Vice President of Global Online Sales and Operations at Google, where she built and managed the online sales channels for advertising and publishing and operations for consumer products worldwide. She was also instrumental in launching, Google’s philanthropic arm. Oh yeah, she’s a great speaker, too.

Sonal Shah, director of social innovation, White House

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Sonal R. Shah is an American economist and public official. Since April 2009, she has been serving as the Director of the new Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation in the White House. Previously, Shah was a member of the Obama-Biden Transition Project and was the head of Global Development Initiatives, a philanthropic arm of Sonal is also a compelling and seasoned speaker.

Wendy Harman, social media director, American Red Cross


Wendy Harman has been on the front lines of online social innovation with the American Red Cross since late 2006. She has seen it all, from hurricanes to Haiti. Prior to joining the American Red Cross, she fell in love with intellectual property at law school and then worked for musicians’ rights at the Future of Music Coalition and Lawyers for the Arts. She was along for the ride when musicians were among the first to bypass traditional gatekeepers using social media tools, and she’s been trying to keep up and do good ever since.

Every single one of these speakers would add a little spice to the current roster of gurus, and bring fantastic new insights to the table that would jog the mind. Who would you add to the list?