Reader Feedback on A New Look for the COMMON Session Grid
December 7, 2009 Dan Burger
I need to correct an error in your COMMON article. Speakers are the least affected by COMMON’s recent change to volunteer compensation, not the most affected as you stated. In the past, they needed to give four sessions to earn a full refund of the registration amount. It’s now five sessions. Where a small number of speakers have been hit is that COMMON used to pay additional compensation for sessions over four.
For example, a fifth session would get a free night in the hotel. With fourteen sessions, a speaker could get registration, the hotel for six nights, and airfare. This extra compensation is what has been taken away from speakers, so there is now no financial motivation to give more that five sessions. What is unfortunate is that the speakers who gave the most sessions were also the best speakers who drew the largest audiences.
The volunteers who are hurt the most are those behind the scenes. For example, the subject-matter experts (SMEs) who pick the speakers for the conference used to get free registration. They now get nothing except the blanket volunteer discount, equivalent to giving one session. Members, of the Strategic Education Team (SET), who guide the SMEs, used to get registration and the hotel for the week. They now get nothing but the volunteer discount. Team managers (including me) and the board of directors used to get registration, hotel, and airfare. They now get the volunteer discount. Many of these positions require eight to 16 hours per month, 12 months a year. In addition, many of us spend so much time running the conference and attending meetings that we are unable to attend more than a few sessions.
Our challenge, as stressed by the board, is to return to being a volunteer organization. I have been very proud of the SET and SMEs who have just finished months of effort to plan the Orlando conference with no hope of compensation. I see other committees doing the same. It is these hardworking volunteers who will ensure the success of COMMON in the years ahead.
Bill Hansen, Manta Technologies
There’s no doubt the behind the scenes volunteers have taken a hit in the COMMON cost-reduction plans. Maybe I should have mentioned that in my article, but I was focused on the session schedule and the speakers.
I’m unaware of any behind the scenes people dropping from the ranks because of the benefits that were eliminated, but I would not be surprised to learn that some have or that some will in the future.
I don’t necessarily see this as an error in my article. I see this as a related, but separate issue. I appreciate that you have brought this up.