Choosing speakers and sessions: harder than ever

We’re deep into the speaker and session selection process and it’s harder this year than ever before. We have a record number of submissions, both of speakers and topics. What makes this really exciting is the number of submissions from “Southwest Fox virgins.”

We received proposals from 27 people, nearly twice as many as we need. About half of the 27 have never spoken at Southwest Fox before; some have previously spoken only at user groups. We’re really excited that so many people want to share what they’ve learned.

We have proposals for 92 topics; we need 28 to 30, plus 4 pre-conference sessions. Obviously, there’s some overlap among the topics proposed by different people. However, there seems to be less of that than in previous years. That’s both good and bad. It means we don’t have to do as much of “Do we want person X to present topic Z, or would we rather that person Y do that topic?” On the other hand, this means that we have a lot more topics proposed that aren’t going to make the cut.

The number of topics proposed per speaker ranges from 1 to 19! The median and the mode (most common) is 3. Veteran speakers know that giving us more than 2 to choose from is a good idea, and increases the chance of being chosen.

The topics proposed are pretty well distributed among the tracks. We allowed people to designate two tracks for each topic they proposed. Not surprisingly, the most common track is “Solidifying VFP Development” with 33 submissions. We have 29 topics that fit into “Integrating VFP” and 25 each for “Extending VFP” and “Technology for VFP Developers.” We got 9 proposals for pre-conference sessions and the same number for “Taking Advantage of VFPX.” What’s amazing about those statistics is that, for four of our tracks, we have enough topics to practically fill the whole conference.

So what does all this mean? First, that I’m really glad we gave people a VFP application to submit their proposals this year. Consolidating the submissions into our database was pretty easy. I just unzipped each submission into a separate folder and wrote a little program to loop through the folders and populate the master tables. If we’d had the usual mishmash of Word docs, with some speakers submitting a single document and others submitting one per session, I would have spent much, much longer. (And, of course, now that I have it working, the program is reusable. Maybe next year, I’ll extend it to handle processing the emails and unzipping the data.)

For the three of us, it’s meant somewhat more time working through the proposals and making our individual selections. Interestingly, though, the amount of variance among our individual choices isn’t a lot higher than in the past. We have a conference call scheduled to resolve the differences. (Think House-Senate Joint Conference Committee.)

For those who submitted, of course, it means more competition and that we’ll have to say “sorry, thanks, please try again” to more people than ever before.

For our attendees, we think it means the best line-up of speakers and topics ever. We hope you’ll agree.

Post to Twitter Post to Delicious Post to Digg Post to Facebook Post to StumbleUpon

3 Comments

1
boudewijn lutgerink
Thursday 2 April 2009 - 5:48 am

THAT is indeed a lot Tamar, it sure must be a helluva job to select speakers and topics. I will pray for you and your fellow Geeks for wisdom, strength and courage.

BL

2
Anonymous
Monday 6 April 2009 - 2:05 pm

I suggest that you add another day to the conference. That should help with the selection process – among other things ;-)

3
Thursday 9 April 2009 - 4:32 pm

The problem of adding another day is, of course, that we’d have to raise the price of the conference substantially.



Leave a Reply