What's wrong with Adobe Max? A speaker's perspective.

I read on Ben's blog that registration for the Adobe Max 2006 conference is now open. I was approached earlier this year to give a talk at Max on Flex and PHP -- a topic that I would have loved to cover, especially considering that Arp now has migration classes to handle AMF0 via the open source AMFPHP remoting gateway. However, I had to sadly turn Adobe down. Why? Because Adobe Max has a policy of not paying for speaker's travel expenses or accomodation for the event. Instead, as a thank-you, speakers receive free entrace to the conference. That's a good thing as otherwise they would have to pay at the door so they could enter to present their sessions.

I don't know about you, but this is not what I expect from a professional conference and this is not an industry norm when you look at other professional conferences like FlashForward, FITC, Spark Europe, Multi-Mania and Flash on the Beach. The problem is not that I cannot afford to pay for a flight to the US or for a few nights accomodation at the Venetian (a lovely hotel that Microsoft kindly put us up in for Mix '06 earlier this year and one that I will definitely be visiting again in any case.) It's just that I refuse to do so as a matter of principle. Here's why:

People attend conferences primarily to listen to the sessions given by the speakers who present there. If it wasn't for the speakers, there wouldn't be a conference. This being the case, it gets my goat when a conference like Max charges over $1,000 a ticket for entrance to the event and then is too cheap to pay the expenses of their speakers. This is the least I would expect as a show of respect for the time and effort speakers put into presenting at an event. And I believe that this is the least that any speaker should expect. Conferences that make a profit off of the backs of speakers without meeting this minimum standard should not be rewarded for their exploitative policies. (The other conference that comes to mind that doesn't pay speaker's expenses is WebDU.) If nothing else, it's not fair to other conferences that do respect their speakers.

The wide discrepancy in how various conferences treat their speakers can be seen if you look at the upcoming Flash on the Beach conference that John Davey is organizing here in Brighton. Beyond paying for speaker's expenses, John is actually considering alternative models of profit sharing for the conference.

I need to stress again that this is not a monetary issue at all. In fact, anyone who knows me knows that I donate a very large portion of my time and quite a sizable amount of resources to my various community projects, including the London MMUG and OSFlash. It all comes down to whether or not conferences respect the time and effort of their speakers. In my book, charging over $1,000 for a ticket and then not paying for the expenses of your speakers is just plain wrong.

I hope Adobe Max will, in the future, join the ranks of other professional conferences like FlashForward, FITC, Spark Europe, Multi-Mania and Flash on the Beach -- all of which are organized by groups and individuals that have far less in terms of resources than Adobe does and yet, apparently, have a far greater respect for their speakers.