I so wanted to get into the program committee of the conference, and here I am, and what will we do?

    At different conferences, the responsibilities of the program committee members differ. It so happens that the “program committee” and the “organizers” are exactly the same people, and each of them is both a reaper, a reaper, and a igrets on a dude. Then, suddenly, the choice of the site, the rental of equipment, the purchase of food, and marketing all fall within the scope of their duties. These are very interesting topics, but I don’t understand any of them. Therefore, today we will focus on the fact that it is impossible to take away from the program committee: on working with speakers.

    Now I do not mean superstars who will double ticket sales, even if they step on the stage and are just silent. Not those people whom we hunt in the hope of attracting them to our event anyway in what capacity.

    I'm talking about working with normal people, professionals in their field, and not in speeches. About working with those who submit an application for a report through the application form. About working with those who actually provide conferences with an influx of fresh blood and new knowledge, without which the whole process will quickly degenerate.

    How to evaluate a report on theses?

    Secret way
    Никак. Понять, насколько хорошо получится, можно только после прогона выступления, и то не всегда.

    Here are some typical difficulties we encounter when trying to do this.

    Answers to current questions

    Viewers expect to get new thoughts, ideas on topics of interest to them.

    Grammar nazi note
    Новые идеи называются «инсайты», а не «инсайды», почему-то это слово люди в отзывах перевирают очень часто, ррррр.

    The more urgent the questions raised in the theses, the more people will come to watch it. And the more offensive to them will be if the answers that the speaker gives seem a mockery.

    To whom is the stated in theses a way to control the budget of the project, its deadlines and it is easy to make decisions about which features to include in the first version and which not? Sounds interesting, right?

    And in fact
    Докладчик недавно открыл для себя SMART-цели и со всем пылом неофита хочет поделиться ими с миром.

    Everyone probably wants to know what to do if you got a project with a big, foul-smelling legacy for your team to support and develop?

    Такой проект нужно первым делом покрывать тестами. Если нет сил написать полноценные unit-тесты, то начать надо хотя бы со smoke-тестов. Спасибо, кэп!

    In general, if a person promises to tell viewers how to write an analogue of Google Docs himself and not get tired, then ... you shouldn’t immediately take his word for it. Let him tell you first.

    How to search for meaning

    Quite often, the speaker himself does not understand what value his knowledge carries, what is really important and interesting from the material, and what is better to delete. I note that the error happens in any direction: truly unique things are often excluded from the first version of the story as trivial. One of your tasks as a member of the program committee is to find such things. There is no universal recipe for sorting knowledge (who would doubt), but I want to suggest questions that sometimes help to figure out:

    What will change in the life of the audience after they listen to you?

    Alexey Kapterev formulated that a good performance should help people make the right decision, and I fully agree with this wording. Maybe not everyone will have to make this decision, but what does the ideal scenario look like in which your report helped someone?

    What will they do differently when they come to work after the conference?

    This question is similar to the previous one, but has a different focus. This is a question of applicability. What can be taken from the story and adapted to the case? Sometimes with his help it is possible to convince speakers who would like to tell the world how the backend architecture is arranged in the company “Horns and hoofs”. Not what tasks were solved, not what difficulties arose along the way, not what options were tried, but they refused, namely, how the architecture works now. They say that invariably the most popular track on QCon is “Architectures you've always won about”, but the key word in popularity here is not “architecture” at all.

    Why don't they do that now?

    The question that most often changes the entire content of the speech. People do not do something for various reasons: they either do not know how, or do not want, or cannot. Inexperienced speakers are equal to their teachers and work only with "do not know how." See how easy it is to write “Hello, world” on Vue.js! But not everything that is easy should be done. Most often, people do not understand why they need it. They can see “Hello, world” in the dock themselves if instead of answering the question “how to” we give them the answer to the question “why”.

    What would you like to know from the story material a year and a half ago?

    The question is not so much about the novelty, but again about the practical benefits. How much nerves, time and money can you save by listening to the report? What would the speaker himself like to take out of the speech on this topic if he had heard it before?

    Alarm bells

    Often we manage to make sure that the speaker has no meaningful answers, and then we can refuse him with a clear conscience. This is a simple case.

    It happens that we cannot understand whether the speaker has the answers or not. To any question, the speaker answers in full and in detail, with the involvement of new terms each time, with references to the opinions of authoritative people. But at the same time, you can never formulate for yourself in one sentence the meaning of his answer. My experience says: run from there immediately, this is a contagiously good performance you will not get from such a person.

    But it is also often the case that the speaker clearly explains his thoughts to you, at the same time reports nontrivial things on the topic of the report and generally looks very cool, and then it still performs poorly. The most frequent cases that I have met are “bore” and “a person who does not distinguish words from thoughts”.

    A bore likes to put everything on the shelves, begins a story on any topic from the creation of the world and everything that has happened since then, always makes up a complete classification (including all degenerate cases) and is generally terribly boring. At the same time, he can answer short questions briefly and in the case, necessarily observing the accuracy of the wording.

    A person who confuses words and thoughts, as the name implies, cannot distinguish between what he said and what he had just thought. In his head he has a good holistic story (not really a fact, but let's say), but he voices from this story every time some random subset that may seem completely incoherent. Such a person also responds well to short questions.

    Both of these and many other characters are quite difficult to catch in a short conversation, so it is ideal to arrange a report run before making a final decision on it.


    The meaning of the run is not only to weed out those performances that we for some reason do not like, but also to improve those that we like to the maximum. It happens that the speaker has the material, it is very valuable and unique, but you need to help get the interesting things out, put the right accents, correct the actual, mathematical and other obvious mistakes (which can happen to everyone). It is important not to frighten him, not to quarrel with him in tatters. Here are a few things that I suggest not to forget.

    This is not your report.

    There are always important things that the speaker really wants to say and will never give up on them. We may be disagreeing with some of this, but, except in the case of mathematically exact refutations, we cannot ask to replace some statements with others. “Throw everything to hell and do it again like this” - you can tell your graduate student or graduate student, but it's hard to tell a speaker. For some reason, they are often offended.

    Sometimes it is possible to cook porridge from an ax, for several iterations offering to gradually change the performance, so that by the end of the initial version there is nothing left, but you should not count on such an approach.

    Strictly observe mutually exclusive paragraphs.

    There is little that annoys the speaker more than two program committee members requiring opposite things. If on one run someone asked to add to the story, on which hardware the whole system is spinning, and on the next one someone else says that this is completely irrelevant and it would be better to remove it, then ... In general, the constructive process will end.

    Therefore, at a minimum, all communication with the speaker should be recorded for others, as well as for yourself. Connecting to work with some kind of performance, you should familiarize yourself with all the materials, with all the wishes that were discussed before. If this could not be done, then at least warn the speaker about it and ask him to immediately report if you start contradicting what he was asked to do earlier.

    Very fiercely a man goes out on the warpath if he agrees to make any alterations with him, and then reject the application when he has left to process the comments. Yes, in my life there was such a case. There it was caused by the inconsistency of different participants in the process, but from the rush and lack of resources sometimes you want to do so, even with all the information. If you agreed with the speaker to see the new version of the report, then you need to look at it, even if you know for sure that the program is already minimized.

    Interestingly, the report can be first taken without a run, and then rejected due to newly discovered circumstances. In my practice there were several such cases, and they all went smoothly: the speakers were upset, but eventually agreed with the arguments that the report was weak. But this is stressful for everyone every time, often it’s not worth doing that. But for situations where the speaker refuses to arrange a run before making a decision on the report, this is the only working option.

    But, of course, it’s so hard to do when program books have already been printed, viewers have already voted for who they want to see in the main hall, and our hero is expected right there. Therefore, everything must be done in advance.


    Usually at conferences there is a deadline for accepting applications, and then a deadline for making a decision. Also, usually both of these terms are not maintained, but substitute. To pull with the analysis of applications until the end of their admission is not worth it. As in any project, if you need to do a lot of work in a little time, someone will definitely get sick, someone will fall out because of the strains on the main job, and everything will go awry.

    The fear that at the last moment people will come much better, and all places are already occupied, in my opinion, unnatural. More often, at the last moment, people who have not made a decision on applications, will refuse because they already have other plans for the dates of the conference. Prospective applications are best taken as early as possible, and begin to hone performance.

    How to refuse to speakers

    Speakers whose performances were rejected often ask for feedback: what is wrong with my application, what can I do better next time? Think thrice before answering honestly. There are many articles written in the country of pink ponies that honest, detailed and constructive feedback makes the world a better place, and people will thank you for it. In reality, not everyone will be grateful, and the negative of one inadequate in scale impact can block the gratitude of all the others. Recall interviews and stick to the same strategy. As in refusals after an interview, sometimes they hide behind the streamlined messages that HR sends, so I would not be ashamed to hide behind the streamlined messages that the robot sends on behalf of the program committee.

    Do not worry!

    Hyper-responsible people, for the first time participating in the preparation of the conference, often worry in vain about certain things, which contributes to burnout.


    If you call up with a foreign speaker, you are most likely to communicate with him in English. And, oh, horror, you find it difficult to understand what he is saying. This is especially the case with speakers from India, China and other eastern countries. Politically correct remark: they are no worse than Germans or Argentines, they are just different and unaccustomed to our ears. I often saw suffering in the spirit: suddenly this speaker said something clever, but I did not understand what to do? ..

    I suggest this reasoning. In IT it is difficult to achieve success, poorly knowing English. If you are invited to the program committee, your success is noticeable to the community, so that with English you, most likely, are no worse than the average viewer. If you do not understand this speaker, then the audience will not understand him. It means that he will not bring benefit, no matter how clever he may seem. Do not worry and confidently vote against.

    Bad reports

    The second common cause of suffering is bad reports that did come to the conference. I do not mean large sponsors now. I'm talking about those performances that somehow climbed through relatively fair competition, and at the end of all look at each other in bewilderment: why are we this take?

    I am convinced that such awkward moments occur in any work, it is only important that there are few of them. So, the reports that have taken in vain, there is always. Someone looked promising for a long time, but could not prepare, someone turned out to be a disguised sale, and someone after all the runs inserted into the report an idiotic politically incorrect joke, for which all the organizers of the conference later had to apologize. This is life, in such feils it is necessary to treat the same as all the others: analyze, prevent the reappearance as much as possible and switch to the following tasks.


    Another benefit that you can apply: do not feed into the main draw, but rather keep your performance in stock.

    Minute of captaincy: something always goes wrong in life as planned. With regard to the conference program, this means that one or two speakers mustwill break at the last moment. Someone will get sick. Someone submitted to several conferences that were held simultaneously, and at the last moment they would take him to another one, where he wanted more than ours. Someone is freaking out. In my practice, there was a case when a rapporteur from Europe, to whom tickets had already been bought, made a scandal: “Oh, do you want me to show you a report in a week? Yes, I'm working here, busy, you trust me, it turns out? Go away, I will not go to you! ”The entire training program was known to him in advance, and he once agreed with her, but at the last moment decided to jump off.

    In general, it happens that the reports in the already seemingly drawn grid are not enough, and there is not much time left. This is where the reserve comes in handy. It is difficult to keep in reserve a person who has nothing to do with the conference, it is difficult: I cannot persuade so much. And by definition, the program committee is supposed to get sick.

    Again, the preparation of their own report by the participants of the program committee often suffers: there is not enough time and effort. It is better to keep such a performance in stock until the moment it is obviously needed.


    Do not miss the chance to work in the program committees of conferences, it is interesting! Here are a few thoughts that I hope will simplify this work for you:

    1. Try to be consistent with each report.
    2. Get started with speakers as early as possible.
    3. Look for how to make each presentation useful.
    4. If you don't understand the speaker, vote against it, no matter how smart it may seem.
    5. Do not worry.
    6. Do not seek to combine participation in the program committee with your own performance.

    If I managed to convince you and you had a desire to work in the Program Committee or even make a new conference in cooperation with Ontiko - write to oleg.bunin@ontico.ru. Work in the PC, by the way, is paid - a great way to use your expertise.

    Or apply for reports to first go all the way by the speaker. Call for Papers is now open for: TeamLead Conf , Moscow Python Conf ++ , Saint HighLoad ++ , InoThings Conf , AppsConf , Frontend Conf .

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