Thursday, 22 December 2011

"Unfortunately, your presentation was not accepted "

The words a regular presenter dreads to hear. Well it happened to me earlier this month when my papers submitted to OAUG for Collaborate were rejected.

It isn’t the first time I have had a rejection, I often submit 3 or 4 and expect to have perhaps 2 selected. It helps if the organisers can choose. On the OTN tours, we are asked to submit about 4 and then the individual user groups select the ones they want. Sometimes I am surprised at what they select, but they normally know their audience.

So having all my papers rejected was a big blow. I am motivated by peer recognition, that may make me shallow but it’s the truth. I want to be able to share what I know with others and I think I have a gift for it. I’m not the best presenter in the world, but I like to take a complex story and distil it down to the simplest analogy and build it up. I love enabling business people to understand technology and the reverse.

It was even more of a disappointment as Collaborate is the biggest Apps User Group gathering in the World, and I think I have something to give. If my papers were not good enough then is my message stale or no longer relevant? So I asked OAUG for feedback on why?

At UKOUG we have so many submissions for conference and our judging process is quite rigorous and the number of slots available means we also turn down lots of really good papers. Sometimes a fantastic paper is rejected simply because there are lots on the same subject, or we decide not to have that topic for some reason. I often get asked by people who have not been successful and during paper selection we do make notes on each rejected paper so that people who have taken the time to submit can have an answer if they ask.

OAUG arranged a call with me and we talked about it. I wasn't asking them to change their mind, that would be a misuse of my position, I just wanted to understand why. I had submitted three papers,  the 'Your Path to Understanding Fusion Apps' , ' Should I upgrade or go straight to Fusion Apps?' and 'Consolidation to the Cloud'  I gave all at OOW with good reviews, and subsequently on the Asia Pacific OTN tour and at UKOUG. OAUG explained to me that they did have a lot of Fusion papers with a limited stream and had decided that people would be more interested in ‘how to’ than ‘what is it’ or ‘why’ papers. I disagree, not because my papers were unsuccessful, but because people don’t all understand what Fusion is, and actually it is two different audiences. I have another presentation ‘What do Fusion Apps tell you about your own Enterprise?’ and when I gave that at UKOUG I discovered 90% of the audience hadn’t even seen Fusion Apps, we must remember that many conference attendees are at their first one. I also know people are only looking and asking when it is relevant to them. Should I upgrade was the #1 question I was asked at Collaborate last year.

OAUG run a great conference and there are fantastic sessions available to everyone and no-one will die without me. Next year I will submit more and talk with their team beforehand about what they are actually looking for. I will be speaking for OAUG in Dubai in March, we haven’t fallen out.

This incident made me think more about conference planning, for big conferences with many streams, they only way is through paper submission and selection, but for smaller events where sessions are limited you need to tell more of a story or stick to just one or two topics. For example in Ireland, we have a call for papers but decide on the streams, what we want to get across, she what has been submitted and then source the rest. What do you think about paper selection processes?

I will be at Collaborate,  Quest International took the ‘Your Path to Understanding Fusion Apps’ remember this is based on work done by all the user groups, and they have also asked me to take part in Upgrade and Fusion Panel Sessions.


John Flack said...

I sympathize - I bet all of us regulars have had turn-downs - I know I have. OTOH, I've had papers accepted that I knew were below-par by the time the conference rolled around. They seemed to be a good idea when abstracts were due, but didn't pan out when I got to the nitty gritty of fleshing it out. I wanted to say, "Please don't make me do the paper I proposed, I have a better one I'd rather do."

I've also evaluated abstracts. It sure would help if the review committee would get together and chat about the tough decisions, but often my whole input has been a rating on a scale from 1 to 5. I've been on rating applications that allow comments as well as ratings, but then don't show the comments to the decision makers.

Anonymous said...

Well 2013 OAUG in Denver had such mediocre papers presented that I was shocked.

I am also told on good authority that consulting sponsors are needed to get them on the radar otherwise you stand no chance.

Cant we the users who have developed world class solutions be able to independently present? Sad.