Thursday, December 01, 2005

Whose job is it anyway?

The heat is being turned up on conference organizers, and it's not just me (although I admit to stirring the pot.)

I want to address the most common reason given by organizers for the make-up of their speaker list: we put out a call for submissions, and the women, or the minorities, or the conservatives, or whoever, did not submit.

So let me speak for one moment not as a conference speaker (who admittedly doesn't get around to submitting to every conference I could), nor as a conference organizer (who certainly sympathizes with you that conference programming is hard), but as a conference-goer...who has yet to figure out the magic way to get everyone to let me come to their conferences for free:

Cry me a river, people!

Whether you are a for-profit or a non-profit event, you are asking me to pay money to attend your event. You are positioning your event as presenting the best, the brightest, the most comprehensive content on whatever your subject matter area is. As an audience member I am telling you that I no longer am willing to pony up to be presented a homogenous perspective.

It is the organizer's job to line up the program its audience wants and will benefit from...whether those submissions come knocking on your door or not. If your content is really dictated only by who submits to you, whether that give you a full programming plate or not, then I hope you're charging a conference fee commensurate with that effort, or alternatively I hope you're not positioning your event as the last word on a topic, but merely the words that were kind enough to fall into your lap.

There's no sense getting upset that people are giving you feedback on the job you're doing. And there's no sense blaming either your prospective attendees (read: customers) or some non-specific people for not submitting. Your prospective attendees don't care if it's hard, or if you have to hunt.

Here's a painful example, just so you know I really do understand. (For another example, see this post.) BlogHer got some critical feedback about our technical sessions. Not enough. Some people wanted more advanced material. Some people wanted more hands-on instruction. People wanted more. Sure, we put out a call for feedback/proposals for the kind of technical instruction people wanted way before the conference. Sure there were even 10 modules of Room of Your Own sessions...where anyone was welcome to plan the session they wanted to see happen. But we believe the feedback is valid, and it's our job to fix it. This year we will make more effort to reach out to highly technical women we know and improve our technical program.

You may, on the other hand, feel that that the folks voicing complaints about your panel make-up are just lone voices in the wilderness, and that it won't impact the success of your event. Fair enough. So, own it. Just don't tell me you have no control over your content. As someone you're asking to shell out hundreds of dollars for your event...I don't want to hear it. As far as I'm concerned: that's your job.

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?