Friday, November 9, 2007

What to do with a busted session?

Many of us who put on conferences and trade shows end up in the situation at one time or another. A speaker unavoidably gets sick, misses a flight, gets kidnapped, whatever. You have to scramble and make a key decision: Cancel the session or try to get a replacement. Most I have been to take the first choice. Sure, you have some disappointed people, but you give them a chance to go to a different session. If it is your keynote, or the only session going on in that time slot, I vote for the replacement. People usually understand and you didn't pull them away from another learning opportunity.

Unfortunately, my first session at BlogWorld this morning went the replacement route. It meant I missed another session I wanted to attend. I don't blame the replacement. She didn't have enough time to put something together. And you could tell she wasn't that comfortable standing in front of an audience. She had a few decent things to say, but it wasn't as valuable as I had hoped.

My 2 cents: cancel when appropriate.

PS - I met up with my boss who had the same thing at his session. Om Malik from Business2.0 and Michael Arrington from TechCrunch both were no shows, leaving one guy on the panel. You really can't have a panel with 1.


Jamie said...

Yeah, I filled in for someone at the ASAE meeting in Boston. It was a topic that was close to my area of expertise, but there was no way I could meet the topic EXACTLY as it was described. I provided full disclosure to those in the room, and a bunch left immediately. Many stayed, though, and it was a fun session--evals were mixed, of course. Some were still disappointed that they didn't get what was originally promised. Others were happy. the key is telling them up front and letting them go to another session if they wish.

Matt Baehr said...

Good call Jamie. There was disclosure up front. But this conference made you sign up in advance. I guess I could have gone to one of their change areas, then found another session. But they didn't make it easy.

Hilary said...

The other choice is to use the time in a completely different way. For example, once another speaker and I were asked to fill in for a session at a Web content conference. Instead of a lecture-type session, we facilitated a discussion about how people felt about their content management systems. It was an incredible session, completely interactive, and we turned it into a white paper.