So last week there was a discussion on Twitter regarding speaker’s submitting slides for review before that speaker gives a presentation at the WordCamp. I just wanted to touch on this and give my thoughts and feedback, and what WordCamp Miami’s past policies have been.
Why Review Slides At All?
Why would a WordCamp Organizer want to review presenter slides before the event? I can think of two reasons: (1) To prevent conflicts related your camp’s code of conduct (if you don’t have one, then get one) and (2) to ensure the speaker is obidiing with the specific speaker guidelines you sent to them – primarily, at least in my mind, making sure that they aren’t overly self-promoting themselves. Notice how #1 primarily reflects on the camp (and it’s organizers) while #2 is a reflection on the speaker first (which, depending on the issue also has the possibly of reflecting on the camp organizers rightly so or not).
It’s important to note that the “review slide” policy is a suggestion, not a requirement or standard throughout WordCamps. Some WordCamps don’t do it, others do.
If You Approved A Speaker, Shouldn’t You Trust Them?
First, don’t confuse approval with trust.
Secondly, don’t confuse looking at slides as a lack of trust (or anything personal).
Thirdly: consider new speakers. New speakers (either new to that particular WordCamp or new to conferences in general) should be the first slides to be reviewed. In the case of WordCamp Miami, we had new speakers…and in addition to looking at their material, they spoke at local meetups – so we could see them up close, offer suggestions, etc. I don’t think experienced speakers would have a problem knowing there’s a general policy for organizers glancing at slides… especially when that policy is really for the new speakers. Those organizing the WordCamps might not know veteran speakers from new ones, and I’m sure most veteran speakers realize.
What Should Speakers Think?
As an organizer, I can tell you that I’ve almost never had a problem with speakers turning in slides when requested. As a speaker, I can be honest and say meeting an organizer’s deadline to turn in slides sometimes isn’t easy. Speakers are busy with their full time jobs (not to mention that they are rushing to travel to your WordCamp, which might be out of town) and sometimes slides can wait until the last minute. I’ve seen that happen often enough to take note of it – not to mention every once in a while i’ve seen a “just got my slides done” tweets on Twitter. Even so, I think it would be more professional for speakers to prepare the majority of your slides in advance… NOT right before the event. While some speakers are more natural than others, some need that extra time and preperation to deliver a smooth presentation. Don’t be that person waking up early on WordCamp day to finish your presentation, unless it’s tweaking.
What Can Organizers Do To Help Speakers?
Organizers should decide before an official call to speakers what the guidelines are and communicate these promptly. If you want to have a “we would like to take a peak at your slides” policy, then plainly announce it on your site and/or on the speaker submit forms. If you want, give a brief reasoning behind the policy. Honestly, I don’t think i’ve seen a single slide yet in Miami that has been conflict with our codes of conduct (but we have had to adjust promotion and have caught a few typos and incorrect logos) – but checking provided the Miami’s organizers peace of mind.
How About Those Who Say “I Don’t Have Slides”?
Hey, that’s cool. For WordCamp Miami, we were ok with this if you were a veteran speaker. Personally? I would need SOMETHING to go on if a “new” speaker wasn’t going by slides for their presentation.
Sidenote: Slide Links
I try to ask speakers for slide links before their presentation so we can tweet them out during or after their talks, and also to post these on the WordCamp sites. It still amazes me how many WordCamps and conferences leave it to the speakers to post links to their slides on Twitter (usually during the conference when not many are paying that close attention). All slide links should be on the conference site for attendees to refer back to later.
So Let’s Summarize:
- Don’t procrastinate. Be professional.
- Deliver slides to organizers by their deadline, but let them know you’ll make tweaks.
- Don’t have slides? Give the organizers something to go on, if for nothing else but for their comfort.
- Realize that if there is a policy, it’s not directed to anyone in particular. Conflict w/ conduct rules and self-promoting are the biggest things organizers look for.
- If organizers spot a mistake or typo, thank them for the second look.
- Set your policy up front when calling for speakers. Springing deadlines or policies on speakers close to the event isn’t giving alot of respect to your speakers.
- Give quick updates and feedback to your speakers – don’t leave them hanging after you got their slides. Protip: Start a mailing list that only has your approved speakers, so you can send out updates quickly (useful for last minute schedule changes, etc.)
- Be casual in dealing with speakers, understanding many are traveling on their own dime to speak at your WordCamp. Being the “slide police” isn’t helpful.