I’ve been helping a conference or two lately on the topic of invited speakers and keynotes.
I enjoy conferences where there are no keynotes and no parallel sessions (often because I can’t often tell my interest in a paper presentation from reading a conference abstract) but I also enjoy an inspiring speech.
Some of my favourites have been:
- Rob Cook, Pixar Animation Studios, SIGGRAPH2008, Singapore
- Kent R. Week, VAST 2005, Pisa
- Genevieve Bell, Digital Humanities 2015, Sydney
I’ve seen more famous people speak, philosopher Daniel Dennett, architect John Andrews, a couple of Noble Prize winners (3, I think, astronomer Brian Schmidt was genuinely awe-inspiring), and Apple’s Steve Jobs (most incredible business presenter/seller ever). But the first three mentioned really set the mood, key and tone of the conference.
So what is a keynote speaker for?
- To inspire and prepare attendees for the future
- To survey and inform attendees of with what has been done (personal projects or overview of field, startling or unusual or little known discoveries, inventions, crises and projects)
- To critically examine..
In other words, what has been done (and why), what must or should be done, what could or will be done..
I seldom hear the why, or the must be done or the (what we think) will be done..
Often keynotes are invited because
- They are famous and will lend gravitas to the conference
- The program chair wants to meet them and bathe in their reflected glory
- They are famous for being keynote speakers..
I know of 2 or 3 who are invited so often to keynote, they give ever more and more polished versions of their original talk.
Rather than just an individual’s projects, in general I think I’d like to hear more from #3 and also from younger, fresher researchers, but too often what really happens differs from what I’d like to see happens…
Some hopefully useful links
- Selecting Good Keynote Speakers for Your Conference
- Selecting Speakers for your Conference
- How to organise an academic conference – 10 tips (and yes organisers can forget the wifi!)
- Tips for presenting, chairing, and discussing at conferences
- Organizing a Conference – Is It Worth It?
- Ten Simple Rules for Chairing a Scientific Session
- How to be a brilliant conference chair
- How to Organize a Panel for a Conference
- How to chair