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Silence of the Lambs - the ITSM Conference Landscape

"I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced." -Obi-Wan

Today like many others started with catching on Asia and EMEA's tweets.  Like many days, there were the usual rants and links.

Immediately I noticed a few people tweeting regarding their "rejection" letters from itSMF USA's Service Management Fusion Conference for 2012 in Dallas, Texas.

While I have noticed a few people over the past ten days mentioning their "rejections" today there seemed to be many more inquires and even questions surrounding the distribution of speakers from other geographies outside of the USA.

This topic was recently put to Marianne Billington, itSMF international Chair.

As far as "international" speakers, so far I saw our friend Mauricio from Mexico and Kathryn from Australia.  

I wanted to take a moment to throw in my two cents on this topic of speaking, conferences and the future.

In 2011 I proposed to Pink, that we invite speakers who were "active on Twitter and other social networks".  I wanted to make sure people who were speaking, where also going to make sure they let others know.  Finally I felt people who were active on social networks would also make a great deal of noise while at the show, so that others who could NOT attend would get value from the stream.

As many people know Pink11 was an industry-changing event and many felt like we turned a corner for ITSM professionals that year.

I suggested to ServiceNow this year that we actually pick speakers based on "klout" scores.

Again this was met with a lot of misunderstanding and confusion.  Klout at least would let us know someone's "score" that was based on much more than JUST Twitter, but LinkedIn, Facebook etc.

For the record, ServiceNow picked folks based on a lot of data and only a few were hand selected because of their influence, fortunately or unfortunately Klout never entered the equation

If the idea of picking speakers via Klout score bothers you, I can guarantee you that it pales in comparison to the cronyism I have seen in other section processes.

So let's look at itSMF USA bit by bit:

  1. itSMF Fusion has been run by HDI for the past two years and recently signed an extension, so in essence, the "talent pool" for speakers is much larger than in previous years.
  2. itSMF and HDI have mentioned that they had hundreds / thousands of entries for Fusion 12
  3. itSMF has stated that this year they actually have 30% speakers who are NEW, e.g. never spoke at Fusion before.

Now let's look at a problem inherent to the selection process of a lot of conference "Track chairs".  Track chairs are assigned all submissions for a specific topic and then interview, approval or deny those submissions.

Track chairs like many positions at conference are volunteers. They may or many not have the expertise to grade speaker submissions or even take time to investigate each submission to the extent many wish.

To get around this, events like SXSW actually allow their speakers to solicit votes many months preceding the event to actually get placed into the queue for selection.

This helps the "crowd" to be heard and makes it easier for track chairs.

You could very easily do something like this for itSMF or any industry conference by using for each track.

itSMF USA has also stated that people not chosen to speak will have the opportunity to participate in "cold fusion", not sure if that's the actual name.  Cold Fusion will allow you to present via a webinar, to the itSMF USA community.

So how do ensure that you get to speak at an industry conference?  Well there are a few full proof ways.

  1. Be a top sponsor.  Top sponsors are offered slots for customers, and speakers.
  2. Be a track chair, the track chairs seem to usually get a spot if they wish.
  3. Be a volunteer of “epic proportions”, National level at least.
  4. Be the flavor of the month (this is how I got to speak in 2009).
  5. Be an industry Analyst, Forrester, Gartner, EMA, Ovum, etc.  These folks are processed like the red carpet at Studio circa 1977.

Last year, I didn't submit to speak at Fusion11.  I was very vocal about allowing "space" for new folks to submit.  I ended up spending close to 2000.00 to travel and attend the conference for 1 day, to record a podcast for Connect, Learn Grow. 

This was money out of my own pocket for a conference I was not speaking at.  Net/Net if you are not speaking you can still attend and make yourself known.

This year I did submit to speak and no,  I have not heard either way.  Although I'm sure this blog won't help my cause.  :)

In closing remember a few things:

  1. The Back2ITSM community is reaching 300 on Facebook.
  2. The sheer number of connected professionals will not allow any type of selection process outside of sheer democracy to continue much longer.
  3. Your voices are being heard!  In 2009 No one looked at social sites and not many blogged.
  4. You can still go to the conference, and you should.
  5. Take the content you would have submitted and deliver it on YOUR OWN, start a group of speakers who are not speaking get a go to meeting account and offer yourselves a collective of folks who just want to give back. 

Continue to speak up, the dialog is much more valuable than any conference.

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Reader Comments (1)

yea, was rejected too

April 16, 2012 | Unregistered Commenteraale

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by Chris Dancy