Buck Woody wrote a fantastic post this morning for speakers to think about. All too often I have seen some speakers at technical events adopt the prima donna stance, expecting gifts, special treatment, free food and drinks, and more. I do think that events should try to recognize speakers when they can, but for smaller events, gifts and dinner can be hard. Ultimately I want events to be sustainable, with 100 SQL Saturdays a year and there isn’t enough money to make them all lavish smorgasborghs of delight for those that present.

speakersThere was a bit of a discussion recently about cancellations and penalties for speakers at events. Cancellations happen, and sometimes are unavoidable, however they have a huge impact on organizers. There are any number of reasons for cancellation, some legitimate, some suspect, and since Andy Leonard likes elegant solutions, I have one:

If you cancel speaking at an event, the event bans you from speaking the next time they have the event. You get an appeal to the program committee to state your case, but their decision is final.

But Steve, my wife broke her arm and I had to leave early. Why can’t I speak next year?

I completely understand. If you have a family emergency, or you’re sick, cancel. Take care of you and yours. That’s understandable, no one can blame you, and you can appeal to the committee and state your care.

However do your penance. There’s no entitlement here for speaking. I believe in making the decisions that are ethically and morally just for each person, but then be man or woman enough to stand up for your decision, regardless of the consequences.

I cancelled on SQL Connections a couple years ago because my wife broke her arm as I was landing in Denver between events. I wasn’t speaking, but had committed to help cover the event for my company. They would have been justified in telling me they wouldn’t pay for me to attend anymore. And I would have accepted that as a result of my decision.

I cancelled on the Louisville SQL Saturday this past January, after I had submitted a session and been accepted. I gave them as much notice as I could, in this case I told them in Nov and they had two months. My reason: my middle son’s black belt test was the same day.

I am still apologizing to Malathi for my decision, and if she decides not to allow me to speak anymore, or any other SQL Saturdays cite that as a reason to not choose me, I accept the consequences.

We are adults, we are professionals, and if our other obligations intrude and override our commitment to speak, accept the consequences. It might suck, but it’s the adult thing to do.

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3 Responses to Penance

  1. Brian Kelley says:

    Agreed. I was one of the ones who had to cancel (I seem to be snakebit in November) because of family circumstances. If PASS had said, “You’re banned for a year,” I still would have made the same decision. If PASS has even said, “You can’t speak at PASS, ever,” I still would have made the same decision. I would have appealed if there was a mechanism, but you’re right: consider the options, make the choice, and accept the consequences.

    Life isn’t fair. We shouldn’t pretend that it is. Actions have consequences. I know my generation (and previous generations) should have learned this in childhood. There’s “no excuse,” for not understanding that, as we say from The Citadel.


  2. thomasrushton says:

    Quite right too. It’s similar in the music biz. A while ago, I had a really nasty (couldn’t move) bout of ‘flu, and had to pull out of a gig. I’ve not been asked back by that group since, and I don’t particularly expect to be. What’s really galling is that it’s the first time I’d been asked to join that group, and they are *good*. Heigh ho, life happens, and we must move on. I get regular work from other people…

    Steve – you didn’t mention the important detail – did your son get the belt?


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