Companies Need To Do A Better Job Of Managing Their Speaking Commitments

Next week’s Streaming Media East show will be mark the 20th show that I have chaired over the past seven years. Whenever you have over 250 speakers a year, across three shows, changes and cancellations are always bound to happen. That’s simply part of the conference planning business. But each year that goes by, more and more companies are becoming really bad with their speaking commitments. Too many companies are confirming the spots and then the day of the event, don’t even show up. We get no call, no notice and the company does not even send a replacement speaker. This is simply unprofessional and makes your company look bad. I have a list of companies that will no longer be invited back as a result.

While most folks would probably agree with me that’s just bad manners for no shows, what about all the speakers who decide the day before, or less than three business days before the show to cancel and don’t send a replacement speaker? I’ve probably had twenty speakers cancel this week alone and have been fortunate to replace most of them, many times with the help of the session moderators but it has not been easy. Trying to organize, plan, market and promote a show of this size is difficult when 15% of your speakers change three days before the event. So I am putting companies on notice right now that it’s simply unprofessional and it makes you look bad when your company name is in the program and someone in the audience wanted to hear from you, but you didn’t show up. Yes, it does not help me plan a show, but I am not the one presenting on stage, you are. So when you don’t show up, it hurts you a lot more than it hurts me. You send a bad message to the market and it’s just bad for your business.

Things happens, sometimes speakers have no choice but to cancel. People get sick, go into labor early, flights gets canceled and things happen out of anyone’s control. But too many companies think they can simply call up and say the “economy” is keeping them from coming or that “budgets” have now been cut. If you are on the West coast and are planning to speak at the show two days from now, that means you would have already booked your flight, hotel and other costs that are not exactly easy or many times possible to refund. So telling me two days before the show that all of a sudden there is no budget probably means you really had no intention of sticking to your speaking commitment to begin with. Way too many people are using the lack of budget as an excuse as if all of a sudden the economy got bad in the last three days. If you don’t think you can make it and budgets may be an issue, then why do you commit to the speaking spot? Speakers hound me really wanting some spots, but then all of a sudden act as if they had no chance of showing up anyway, even though they double or triple confirmed the commitment.

Companies need to be a lot better with follow up and understand what you are committing to when you say you are going to show up somewhere and speak, for any show or event. Some are really good but it seems that as each year goes by, more and more companies are handling their speaking engagements very poorly. Case in point is when it takes a company three months to decide if they want a speaking spot that has been offered to them. If it takes you three months to even decide if you want the speaking spot to begin with, before you even decide who the speaker will be, then you really don’t value the opportunity and it’s not a fit. Moving forward, I am going to be a lot more strict with speaking spots at future shows. Companies that take weeks or months to even acknowledge they have been requested to speak will simply be skipped.

For those that do adhere to their speaking commitments, I thank you. Not everyone is unprofessional and some speakers who had to cancel, (MTV, Sling Media, Adobe, Level 3 and others) were all able to find a replacement speaker in the company to send in their place, so I thank them for that help. If you attend next week and find that someone who you were planning to chat with or wanted to meet is no longer speaking, let me know and I will do my best to connect you with them. While having 160 speakers over three days would mean most folks expect some changes to take place, my job is to make sure you met up with and get introduced to whomever you came to hear speak. If I can make that happen for you, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

  • Come on name some names! I say start a blacklist of people/companies so everyone knows not to invite them again!

  • Anon-a-Blogger

    Oh I’m sorry. Did I insult your little conference? Is that why you deleted my comment? No one really cares about your whining about people canceling. It happens all the time–get a thicker skin.
    Yes, go to the Streaming Media shows. I mean, speakers are canceling left and right, but that doesn’t mean anything, right?

  • Comments aren’t deleted unless they use foul language or are personal attacks. You can have any opinion you like in the comments section of the blog.

  • Ed

    It is a reflection of overall professionalism and common courtesy to manage commitments appropriately. Last minute cancellations are disrespectful unless there are legitimate extenuating circumstances.