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…the envelope please…

When I talked to Bob about taking over Southwest Fox he told me a number of things that I should be worried about, and all the work that would was ahead of me. He did not warn me how difficult it would be to pick the sessions and the speakers for our event.

I knew it was not going to be easy since we determined the budget would allow for 14 speakers and last year there were 19 speakers. I also know we wanted to invite some “rookie” speakers to grow the speaker community. This is something we admired about Whil’s approach in the past with GLGDW and something I know Kevin did by default with his approach for FoxForward. This meant we could not invite a handful of speakers back from past Southwest Fox conferences, and I knew this would make the speaker selection the hardest part of being an organizer this year.

The submissions surpassed my high expectations. The quality of the abstracts and the ideas presented blew me away. I could have easily invited everyone if we were charging US$1200 per attendee, but we are not so we had to get picky. I remember my first email after seeing the list from Tamar: “Holy….” (ripping off the Volkswagen commercials {g}).

I spent one morning evaluating and rating the choices. Sorting the table, dumping it to Excel and seeing how the sessions rated. Then the hard work started. I had to begin the elimination process. Every session had some merit, but we only had room for 28 sessions because we are committed to giving most sessions twice (there will be some sessions in the Fundamentals track given only once). I think I had something like 38 highly rated sessions. Some people submitted 3 or 4 sessions I wanted, but as a speaker I know preparing and giving four new sessions is completely unreasonable even though we are giving the speakers nearly five months to prepare them. Each of us (Doug, Tamar, and myself) whittled the list down to speakers we absolutely wanted to invite with some alternates. At this point we did some virtual wrestling and debating during a 1.5 hour conference call. Amazingly the three of us had picked 85% of the same sessions and the other 15% were not brutal since the session submissions were so good.

All of this was accomplished on Friday April 13th as we had posted on the Southwest Fox Web site. Some people interpreted this as the deadline to announce – I apologize for that, we should have added another set of dates (notes for doing better next year). We made the picks and then Tamar (who is ultimately the person in charge of speakers) wrote individual invitations to the speakers we selected. We had to wait to hear their acceptances before we started to send out the “sorry – not accepted” emails. All of this takes time and we waited patiently for the speakers to accept. I am happy to say that all the speakers we initially invited did accept. Those who did not get invited this year could easily be invited next year. It is sort of like going to the fruit market and picking the best apples from the stack. Returning a couple of days later and the stack will still have great apples to select from. Most of the people we could not invite still expect to come to Southwest Fox because they really like the conference.

This was a tough process that I am glad is complete.

I am really geeked about our session tracks, the offerings for sessions in the tracks, and the great people you will hear present the sessions. Here is the line up of speakers for Southwest Fox 2007 (sound of envelop ripping…):

Marcia Akins
Rick Borup
Toni Feltman
Tamar Granor
Kevin Goff
Doug Hennig
Whil Hentzen
Michael Hogan
Andy Kramek
Cathy Pountney
Steve Sawyer
Rick Schummer
Alan Stevens
Rick Strahl
Christof Wollenhaupt

Definitely a couple of surprises, eh?

I am not going to spoil the rollout of the session topics yet. We also have started to frame out the keynote, which will be kept under wraps until the night it is given, but you can trust me, it is not to be missed. So many surprises and so many things in the works, and probably more that we have not thought up yet.

Doug is hard at work on the Web site and we are hoping to roll this out Monday or Tuesday in time for the opening of registration on Tuesday. You will see all the sessions, the abstracts, and more of the compelling reasons we hope will entice you to join us in Mesa in October.

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3 Responses to “Southwest Fox Speaker selection…”

  1. April 27th, 2007 at 19:43 | #1


    Congratulations on a great list! One of the names *really* caught my eye – Whil Hentzen.

    Even though you haven’t posted the actual sessions yet, I’m already thinking Whil’s session alone will be worth the price of admission. Not to mention the great things I heard about Christof’s sessions from last year – great to see he is returning.

    Thanks to you, Doug, and Tamar for continuing Southwest Fox!


  2. David Stevenson
    April 29th, 2007 at 14:32 | #2

    This looks like a fabulous line-up of speakers, Rick! I’m looking forward to seeing the list of session topics and also looking forward to seeing you at the event.

    Thanks for putting this conference together for the benefit of the community.

    Dave Stevenson

  3. April 29th, 2007 at 14:43 | #3

    Your both welcome. I look forward to seeing both of you at Southwest Fox.

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