Saturday, 17 January 2015

UKOUG 2014 - Last but Not Least - Who goes last?

The problem with being passionate about something is when things are then criticised you get very dis-heartened and in turn very defensive, so this set of posts are an honest, heart-on-sleeve rant of why things happen, not always perfectly but defiantly for the best of reasons.

Somewhere there is a scientific law that says if a conference finishes at xx o'clock people will leave early. It does not matter if it is a one day or 5 day event this holds true. For organisers that means you have to be especially careful to ensure you have your best sessions on at that time to try and mitigate.

All user groups talk about the difficulty of selecting papers from such a rich pool of content. The need to balance well known always popular with local talent, end users and first timers. I have written several posts on this but a great one I saw recently was this one from Oyvind Isene of the  Norwegian user group.

So should we put end users who are really nervous on at the end? Most I mentor want to get it out the way early so they can enjoy the event.

Do we put first timers on at the end? No again for the same reason.

One thing I often hear from those involved in the agenda planning is why don't we put sponsors on at the end? Absolutely not, all user groups work with partners for mutual benefit and rely on sponsorship to help fund events and keep costs down for delegates. Putting them on at the end makes the value diminish and most of them are at that time breaking down their stands as well.

So that leaves the community of well known, established speakers, the big hitters, the ones who will get an audience on the merit of their content. I myself am in this group and am often last thing, although I prefer Thursday afternoon i.e. last slot at Oracle Open World to first thing Thursday when the hangovers are visibly absent after the party.

We need to take being given the last slot as an honour, and ensure we bring fresh content to them so that those who look at the agenda don't think 'It's the same presentation as last year, or that was given at the last event which may not have been attended but will probably have been down loaded. A see that 'what I learnt from open World' is more popular than a related session given at Open World in a lot of cases, especially for that last slot.

And is being given the last slot worse than not getting a slot? Ask anyone that doesn't get selected, including me. I saw a lot more tweets about people not being selected than people moaning about the last slot. Agenda planning for a popular event is very very difficult, get involved, help, volunteer but please don't criticise for the things that can't be changed but we welcome ideas.

My dad used to say to me at dinner time when i was trying to avoid the vegetables, 'leave the best to last' so you had that to look forward to. It isn't the worst strategy.


Jeff Smith commented on this on Facebook and shared his recent post on this from the position of a speaker - it's brilliant and well worth a read


Tim... said...

It's a tough one. I wouldn't like to have to make those calls.

I'm sure some of the heavy hitters like Tom Kyte and Jonathan Lewis will draw a better crowd than most on those end-of-day sessions, but I have seen big hitters pull small crowds in those session too, which must be quite disappointing for them.

I think the main thing people need to remember is numbers are not as important as having a crowd that care about what you are saying. I've had really good sessions with small groups and really dull sessions with big groups. Anything more than 0 is good. :)



Connor McDonald said...

Speakers generally start off speaking for the buzz of doing so, and the thrill of seeing the excitement in the audience eyes at being given something new to think about.

So when they start grizzling about what slot they've been given, thats usually a sign that they've started to buy too much into their own "press", and lost track of the fact that its not about *them*, its meant to be about the audience.