Time to get control of a major cost center: the conference. Your first thought might be "let's not pay for any speakers." We do agree you should not pay speaker fees because rarely will a rent-a-speaker justify the fee. But if you eliminate paying expenses, then you may end up with speakers who are only there to sell something (either themselves or their company's products).
Better to have a policy that limits expenses only to those without a vested interest for speaking. Then only pay a lump sum to cover expenses (such as $500 for a domestic speaker or $1000 for an international speaker). This puts the onus on the speakers to control their own expenses. It also gets you out of making travel arrangements for them.
Here are two other tips:
Minimize the total number of speakers—have fewer sessions and fewer speakers per session (no more than two per hour).
Do not provide a live internet connection for any session.
For more on producing an effective conference, see Chapter 9 in The Profitable Trade Show (www.profitabletradeshow.com).