The mortal sin of conference organizers

If conference organizers and speakers don’t stick to the contract, things can get messy with talks cut by more than 25%.

Like many professional developers, I find myself at my fair share of technology conferences — some organized by conference veterans, some by conference noobies. I can deal with a cold hot lunch or running out of coffee, but there’s one mistake that we just can’t keep making — both for the sake of our community and for our sanity.

Organizers and speakers must stick to the contract:

  • The speaker will show up to the conference with the agreed upon talk prepared to fill the scheduled time.

  • The organizer will give the speaker the scheduled time to give the prepared talk.

I’ve witnessed talks get cut by over 25% twice: as a speaker at Nebraska Code Camp and just now as an attendee of Dustin Black’s excellent overview of GlusterFS at FOSSCON. It sucks. Not just for the speaker, the organizers, and the attendees; but the community as a whole.

  • As a speaker, you’ve been robbed of the chance to share your well-prepared ideas and instead rush through your content at breakneck speed.

  • As an attendee, you’ve been robbed of the chance to fully absorb the content — and usually robbed of your chance to hang out afterward and chat.

  • As an organizer, you’re just trying to hold it all together as closely to the schedule as possible — and suddenly you’re in the awkward position of cutting off someone’s talk.

  • As the community, we lose the enthusiasm of great speakers and great minds to share their ideas.

So, can we just all agree to show up a little extra early, plan twice as twice as much time for registration as needed, and keep to the schedule? If we must adjust the schedule, at very least let’s take time evenly from all speakers?