Sometimes something is interesting because of who is saying it. But not often.

Of all the conference and meetup talks I’ve ever seen, only two standout as truly terrible. Both of those talks were given by “famous” faces that pop up on every conference lineup going. One of them was so bad that I actively tried to fall asleep in my seat.

Conference organisers have a tricky job. I know because I tried to organise a conference but had to cancel it and issue refunds. As a former gig promoter, I also know that you need to book headliners to sell tickets. But if those bands play a bunch of shitty songs that they didn’t rehearse and no one’s heard before, you’re in for a bad show.

On the conference circuit, becoming one of those familiar faces means:

  1. Being very good in your discipline/industry
  2. Being able to give a great presentation
  3. Being friends with the right people

The first leads to the second leads to the third.

The problem is that once someone is on the circuit, their proposals (if they’re even still required to submit proposals) aren’t held to the same scrutiny as those of a relative unknown. Speakers get better at speaking but risk getting lazy with their content.

Shoutout to those who get booked at event after event year after year and continue to deliver high quality, worthwhile talks. Please remember that you’re not entitled to be there. Don’t get comfortable.

Conference organisers: It’s fine to book your friend. It’s fine to book These People Again. But for fuck’s sake, evaluate every session’s content objectively against the same criteria.