Business track chair Steve Parks writes on the work being done to develop the session content for DrupalCon between session selection and the event itself.
It seemed to happen in the blink of an eye. DrupalCon Austin finished, and within a week the window for submitting sessions for Amsterdam closed. After that, the track chairs had just two weeks to review and assess hundreds of submissions to sift them down to just 13 sessions per track-- and we all had day jobs to do too!.
Although selection is now complete, the work to make DrupalCon great isn’t over. The track chairs (and of course the Drupal Association staff) are still devoting considerable time each week until DrupalCon is actually over.
Firstly, we committed to providing detailed feedback to anyone whose proposed session wasn’t selected. In the case of the business track, we went into quite a bit of detail providing tips about what could get each session selected in future. We also encourage new speakers, or those with new talks, to deliver them at DrupalCamps first to get practice.
We offer all selected speakers presentation coaching, and some accept. In these cases Emma-Jane Hogbin works with them to hone their skills and their presentation so that it is ready for the DrupalCon stage. It can be pretty daunting to suddenly have hundreds of smart community members as your audience, especially when many of them will also have expertise in the subject of your talk, so having this coaching can really pay off.
As track chairs we work with many of the speakers on each track to help them develop the content of their presentation for DrupalCon. This is partly to help ensure the talk is pitched at the right level and contains valuable information, and partly so it can add to previous similar talks rather than repeat them. We also help refine the session titles and descriptions so that delegates will want to choose to go to the session.
There are a range of room sizes available, and 3 days of conference. One of our next jobs is to guesstimate how popular each session will be and put it in an appropriately-sized room-- while also scheduling it at a suitable time. This means considering any requests from the speakers, avoiding clashes between sessions that complement each other, and placing more introductory sessions earlier than similar more advanced sessions, as well as a range of other factors. The aim is also to ensure that, as far as humanly possible, most delegates will have something to see in each time-slot regardless of their area of specialism or their level of experience.
Education, not promotion
One of the clauses in the DrupalCon speaker agreement covers a key part of the longstanding culture of DrupalCon that we’re trying to protect as Drupal grows. DrupalCon is not a typical industry sales conference. Audiences don’t want to sit through a product pitch, or a company’s credentials and ego pitch.
The aim of DrupalCon is for education and sharing by the community, for the community. Yes, companies are a vital part of that community - but they are respected based on what they give rather than what they try to get out of DrupalCon. At previous conferences I’ve heard the backchannel backlash against companies overstepping this line. Sales-y sessions are bad for delegates, bad for DrupalCon’s future, and even bad for the company concerned.
As track chairs, that means that we’re alert to sessions that may risk being a little too promotional, and we’ll chat to the speakers concerned (It was also a factor considered in the session selection, as a first filter). We review the slide decks in advance of the conference.
If you feel that any sessions on the business track this year are too promotional, I’d appreciate you letting me know, and I’ll raise it for discussion with the Drupal Association.
Finally, there is still time for us as track chairs to get excited about the coming conference. I’ve now booked my ticket and my hotel - and can’t wait to land in Amsterdam at the end of September and see all the work come together.
See you there!