Saturday, March 03, 2007

meeting people at Linux conferences

One thing that has always surprised me is how few people talk to speakers after they have finished their lecture. A lecture might have many questions and the questions may be cut off, but when the speaker leaves the room they will usually do so alone.

When I give lectures at conferences I'm always happy to spend more time talking to people who are interested in the topic and disappointed that so few people choose to do so. It seems that other people have similar experiences, there have been several occasions when I have invited speakers to join me for lunch and no-one else has shown interest in joining us.

Usually the most significant factor in making someone offer a talk at a Linux conference is the opportunity to teach other people about the technology that they are working on. People with that motivation will take the opportunity to teach people at lunch, dinner, whenever.

Linux Conf Au
has an event called the "Professional Delegates Networking Session" which is regarded by some people as the way to meet speakers (about half the delegates don't attend so the ratio of speakers to delegates is significantly better than at other conference events). But it seems to me that it's more efficient to just offer to buy them dinner. When I worked for Red Hat the maximum value for a gift I could accept was $100US, I expect that Red Hat has not changed this policy since then and that most companies that employ speakers at Linux conferences have similar policies. $100US is more than a meal costs at most restaurants that are near a Linux conference.

If I was a manager at a company that sent employees to a Linux conference I would first send email to some speakers who were working in areas of Linux development that were related to the projects that the employees were working on. I would ask the speakers if they would be interested in having dinner bought for them by my company and give them the option of bringing one or two friends along for a free meal (the friends would probably be people who work in similar areas).

2 comments:

Scott said...

My employer only lets us take under $5 gifts (or it may be nearly nothing, like pens and stuff) so $100 is a ton of money for gifts for me. :)

etbe said...

Scott, it's a pity you didn't mention the name of your company.

Anyway I expect that companies with such small limits are in the minority, and also a significant portion of speakers at conferences are self-employed, so they can accept whatever they want.

Apart from government employees it won't do any harm to ask.