Really. I just needed a conference this fall.

Sarah O'Keefe / ConferencesLeave a Comment

In reviewing our conference schedule for this year, we noticed that conference events were front-loaded in the spring: WinWriters in March, TriDoc in April, and STC in May.

I decided we needed to find another conference this fall. Conferences are an important marketing and networking opportunity for us. Some large percentage of our clients first met us because they attended a conference presentation.

I found the following without too much difficulty (this was back in April or so):

  • tekom and the concurrent European Information Development Conference, Wiesbaden, Germany, November
  • STC Region 5 Conference, Arizona, November
  • LavaCon, Hawaii, September

I’ll give you one second to figure out which one I picked. And then I’ll provide some additional justification for my junket to Hawaiichoice of LavaCon.

  1. tekom requires presenters to submit papers for the conference proceedings. tekom takes the copyright to those materials. (This is similar to STC’s policy, but the papers are optional for the STC proceedings. This, by the way, is why so many presenters do not provide materials to STC.) It’s expensive to fly to Germany and, in November, it’s going to be COLD.
  2. STC Region 5. More appealing than Germany on the weather front. But again, we have the presenter policies. This time, presenters are not required to register for the conference in order to present. If they do, though, they receive a 20 percent discount off the cost of admission. A 20 percent discount is really not enough to get me on a plane. I suppose it might cover airport parking.
  3. LavaCon has a trade show component. tekom does as well, but was ruled out due to item #1 above.
  4. LavaCon is primarily targeted at managers, and managers are usually the people who hire us. Also, any manager who can get approval for a trip to Hawaii is clearly someone who knows how to get things done.

Here are some things that I would like to see more conference organizers do:

  • Provide clear information about proposals, proposal deadlines, and proposal criteria. Tell us what you are looking for.
  • Keep the proposal submission deadline as close as possible to the conference. (The proposal deadline for the May 2006 STC conference is August 2005. No wonder it’s hard to find cutting-edge presentations.)
  • Be reasonable about speaking compensation. I prefer conferences at which I get paid to speak (or at least get travel reimbursement), but I will certainly consider others. Understand that increased speaker compensation results in better proposals and more speakers to choose from.
  • Be reasonable about materials and copyrights. We’re in the publishing industry and should understand that content has value. Asking me to give up the copyright to a presentation or proceedings paper–without compensation–is a deal-breaker.
  • Don’t schedule conferences on weekends. A Friday-Saturday conference says that the conference content isn’t compelling enough for attendees to justify two days away from work. I consider conference presentations work–difficult work–and I really don’t like working on Saturdays.

I should mention that two professional conference organizers–Joe Welinske of WinWriters and Jack Molisani of LavaCon–are great to work with and really understand the concerns of their speakers.

Well. I feel better. See you in Hawaii…

About the Author

Sarah O'Keefe

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Content strategy consultant and founder of Scriptorium Publishing. Bilingual English-German, voracious reader, water sports, knitting, and college basketball (go Blue Devils!). Aversions to raw tomatoes, eggplant, and checked baggage.

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