That time I got accepted to IgniteMpls, and then booted with out recourse.

I submitted a talk to IgniteMpls several months ago. These are 5 minute slots, with 22 slides, 15 seconds/slide. To be honest- I don’t remember the exact time/day- as I never got an email that my submission was processed.

April 6th I get an email that I have been accepted to speak! Awesome!

On April 19th, I send an email to Patrick Kuntz, the organizer about my info (picture, bio, twitter) – and also let him know that I may have a last minute work trip that week. It is unfortunate when last minute work travel comes up, but being the responseble adult, I figured it would be the right thing to let them know well in advance, instead of being that jerk and canceling last minute either the day or week of the talks.

Boy, was I wrong, and they sure taught me a valuable lesson. Keep your mouth shut. (<–This is actually a really bad thing to do.)

Patrick responded with-in 10 minutes (2:08pm) to me with:

“I need to know today. Now. If you are speaking or not.”

Another ten minutes go by with out response from me, and I get another email (2:28pm) – this time he is basically threatening my talk slot:

“David, I can’t leave this to chance. Please let me know within the hour WHEN you’re going to know FOR SURE whether you’ll be speaking. If I don’t hear back from you with an answer to this question, I’ll need to find a replacement. I’m sorry to draw such a hard line, but we’ve got to make sure we’ve got a show to put on. Thanks much.”

Later that night after not being able to respond, I get another email (8:03pm) from Patrck:

 

“David, Alright, dude. You didn’t get back to me. I gotta call it. We’re going to remove you from the line-up for May 10. The next Ignite is November 3. Talk submissions will open in late July.”

So in the span of several hours, while I’m working, and  then teaching a Raspberry Pi class at a Library, I am forcefully removed with out any sort of recourse.
I respond via email (10:38pm):

 

“Hey Patrick, I’m waiting to hear back from my contact in the UK about if the on-site work trip is actually happening. I will get back to you by the end of the week with details.”

Patrick, who clearly does’t know my name anymore, then comes back with an email (11:11pm):

 

“Bryan,

I’m sorry, you misunderstood. You committed to speaking at Ignite almost two weeks ago. Since your commitment is now uncertain, we’ve removed your talk from the line-up and awarded the slot to another speaker. An enormous amount of volunteer hours, money, and effort on the part of our speakers goes into producing an Ignite event. We received nearly 100 talk submissions, and we only announce speakers and sell tickets after we get a firm commitment from our speakers. It is unreasonable to expect that we could pivot and fill your slot with a quality, polished talk on just a few days’ notice. So again, I’m sorry, but we cannot wait. To be clear, you will not be speaking at Ignite Minneapolis on May 10. Another speaker has already committed. 

You are invited to submit this or another talk proposal for the November 3 event.

Best,

Patrick”

In the last 15+ years of submitting and speaking at conferences, I’ve never had such an unprofessional exchange such as this one. I would also never want to subject a new speaker to this. It certainly would kill any kind of positive feelings I might have had for public speaking. Speakers are people too- and clearly they seem to have forgotten that.

It’s any wonder why anyone would submit to IgniteMpls. Let alone volunteering my time to create the material, and then present it. If no one submits, you don’t have any content. Booting someone from a speaking slot with out any kind of dialogue is unprofessional, and I will never submit nor can I encourage anyone in the community to submit to something where the presenters are not respected (time and content). This is a volunteer speaking slot, and I’m doing this for the benefit of the community.

What pisses me off the most is that I came to them with honesty, openness, and an effort to be upfront. Unfortunately, that backfired on me. Booting someone unjustly three weeks out sends a message to the community, and any potential speaker.

But when you have nearly 100 submissions and 18(16?) slots, apparently it’s easy to be a dick to your presenters. This is utterly and completely wrong. We should be respecting the speakers- and working with them. This is not how an event should be run. Ever.

I help run a conference in Chicago, and we do have a few people that let us know if they can’t make it- and we work with them. We don’t forceable remove them from their talking slot. There have only been a few times that I have ever had to worry about something like this, and it’s never easy, and believe me it sucks more for me then it does for them to not be able to participate in a local conference or event.

I hope the sponsors take notice of this too- is this the kind of community we should be perpetuating here in Minneapolis? I don’t think so. By writing this, I might have burned a bridge with IgniteMpls- however no other speaker should be treated like I have been. It’s rude, nasty, and unnecessary. We are all adults, with full-time jobs and commitments.

I would say we need to take a call to action to change this going forward.

-David