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The Politics of Scheduling a Conference


By now you’ve seen the preliminary schedule for BlogWorld ’10. Right now it only contains confirmed sessions and speakers. As we approve more each day, we hope you’ll check back often for updates.

Soon after I published the schedule I was met with a flurry of questions about the sessions and panels and why they are scheduled as they are. Some speakers have expressed disappointment in missing a friend’s panel, some attendees are upset at having to choose between two “famous” speakers, and some speakers would rather not talk more than once in the same day. I never realized this before, but it’s not easy to schedule a conference.

If you’re wondering why you’re scheduled at a certain time, or you’re disappointed because two must-see sessions are scheduled at the same time, consider this:

  • Certain speakers can only talk on a specific day and time. Many of our speakers aren’t spending the entire weekend at BlogWorld. However, they’re making arrangements to fly in for the day or even a few hours. We arranged these schedules and sessions at the speakers’ convenience.
  • Most tracks are only one day. Smaller tracks such as Content or Community are only scheduled for one day. We can’t schedule a talk for Friday if the track only runs on Saturday.
  • Some speakers are scheduled for more than one talk. The last thing we want to do is schedule the same speaker for different talks at the same time.This takes some schedule wrangling.
  • Exhibits. It was suggested to me a few times that we can schedule extra sessions if we start earlier instead of sending people to the exhibit floor. This is true. However, without our exhibitors and sponsors there wouldn’t be a BlogWorld and your ticket would cost a lot more money than it does. The least we can do is offer them a couple of hours here and there so attendees will come visit their booths.
  • Keynotes. We choose the best presentations and presenters to be our keynoters, and hope all of our attendees sit in. Thus, we don’t schedule other presentations during keynotes.
  • Breaks. Without breaks for lunch and networking, you won’t meet others. You won’t land new contacts, you won’t click with that other blogger to work up a killer collaboration and you won’t find that job.
  • The puzzle. Creating a schedule is like a puzzle. All pieces have to fit into place. Moving a session isn’t easy because it has to be switched with another movable session. As you can see, most sessions aren’t movable. Plus, it’s easier to move a single speaker session than an entire panel. On a panel you’re dealing with three or four people’s schedules, not just one. If all pieces don’t fit, we have to play around for hours to make them fit.

All of the BlogWorld sessions are scheduled where they are for a reason. Sometimes that means a speaker has to run down the hall to make it to his next engagement on time or that you have to choose between two awesome sessions.

To be honest, it makes me feel good to know how hard it is to choose sessions to attend – because that means we have so many good sessions it’s hard to decide. I’d rather attendees are faced with that difficult decision than to have them not want to attend sessions because of poor content.

Do you have any thoughts or comments you’d like to discuss regarding the schedule for BlogWorld ’10? Do share in the comments. Everything we discuss helps us to know what we’re doing right, and where we need improvement.

Deb Ng is the Conference Director for BlogWorld. When she’s not playing around with schedules or bugging speakers for agreements, she’s blogging about blogging and social media at Kommein. Feel free to follow her on Twitter @debng.


  • Jenn

    These are good points. I would add that at other conferences, I have appreciated not needing to steal time from presentations to visit the exhibit hall. All of the elements are important and I have found that trying too hard to attend everything usually backfires.

  • Rick

    There are so many more items to add to this list as far as politics go. For example sponsors who insist on tying their sponsorship dollars to speaking opportunities. We don’t allow it, ever! and just turned down $10,000 yesterday for a company who insisted on us allowing them to speak if they sponsored the event.

  • Judy Helfand

    I am so glad that you wrote this post. It really helps to clarify the conference planning process. Your puzzle analogy is terrific. It also reminds me of trying to figure out seating assignments for a wedding reception.

    I look forward to BWE10 and meeting you. I have enjoyed getting to know you via this blog and Facebook.

    See you soon.

  • Brett Tabke

    I feel your pain. (like no one else reading this can 😉

    Keep up the awesome work!


    • Rick

      Haha yes you do have that unique understanding Brett. Anything else we missed?

    • Deb Ng

      Hey Brett – If you have pointers on how you schedule PubCon and still keep everyone happy, I’d love to learn alllllll about it. Maybe we should form a support group.

  • Jim "Genuine" Turner

    The list is exponentially larger than you have included here. Keep up the stellar work Deb.

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