The organizers contacted me last week to confirm my attendance. They even registered me as a "speaker" but had no slot for me to fill. I asked them what they wanted me to do, and with less than 24 hours left before the event kicked off they wanted me to moderate a panel on a topic that was completely unrelated to my background. I politely declined. When I drove all the way down to Palo Alto this morning, they had no proof that I was even registered for the conference. The final red flag about their competence came when they asked me to pay full price for entry. No way, folks. I politely declined and then departed.
The lessons for conference promoters ought to be simple. When you invite speakers, schedule them to address subjects that reflect their professional competence. Keep records of your invited guests. Above all else, the people you "invite" to appear by virtue of their expertise should attend free of charge. I know that words like "invitation" mean different things to different people, but to analysts and subject matter experts like me they mean a host seeks the benefit of my presence. Social media "invitations" and other forms of marketing outreach are legitimate ways to attract paid guests and clients seeking publicity. I get that. I don't get being labeled a speaker, panelist, or moderator who is expected to pay up merely to share my own expertise. I will not pay one penny to hear myself think out loud.
I have accepted free admission to plenty of conferences that saw value in my coverage as an analyst or participation as an expert, even if I said something controversial during or after the event. Tech conferences like speakers, and I like speaking. The two forces should be naturally congruent. Conference organizers who schedule me in advance and let me shine are invariably pleased with the result. The ones who wait until the last minute, offer me nothing, and then require me to pay them are not the ones I need in my life. Please don't play games with my schedule, people. It invites the wrath of Alfidi Capital.