Tuesday 16 February 2010

Encourage the (New) Conference Speakers

Reflecting further on the unconference & BarCamp format of the Analytics Camp NC event that I mentioned last week,  whereby sessions are proposed and scheduled each day by the attendees and based upon pitches from the potential speakers, I realised that this is a good means of giving feedback to potential speakers and thereby encouraging new speakers.

It's a little daunting to write a paper and send it off to some anonymous conference organiser in the hope that you might be seen to offer something of interest to fellow conference attendees. And I've recently seen at first-hand how conference organisers can be dismissive of those whose papers are not selected (to the extent of not even bothering to tell them that their paper was not selected). To get some constructive criticism out of them, in order to do a better job next time around, can be like getting blood out of a stone. People who have had papers accepted for conferences on previous occasions will not be put off by such behaviour; however, for a first-timer the anonymous rejection can easily put them off of ever submitting a paper again.

By contrast, the atmosphere at Analytics Camp seems to have been very informal and welcoming. It sounds like just the sort of atmosphere where a novice might be tempted to propose a topic and be given positive encouragement to proceed with their idea.

I continue to warm to the unconference & BarCamp ideas and ideals. More importantly, if you're organising a conference, please be sure your section chairs show respect and offer encouragement for all of those who take the time and effort to prepare a paper and submit it. For conferences to thrive they need a regular influx of new thoughts and ideas; don't stifle and discourage first-timers.