Conference Presentation Peril

August 29, 2019

No wonder giving a talk at a conference is a terrifying experience for some people. DarkCyber noted “Cryptography Startup Sues Black Hat Conference after Getting Booed and Heckled.” The write up explains:

Crown Sterling, was heckled during its presentation of the paper titled “Discovery of Quasi-Prime Numbers: What Does this Mean for Encryption”

The procedure described in the talk has some value to those engaged in horoscope generation.

A lousy and stupid talk at a conference – so what?

The answer to this question is a lawsuit charging Black Hat “for not upholding its standards of conduct for attendees and for violating their terms of Crown Sterling’s sponsorship package.”

The “sponsorship” angle is very popular at some technology conference venues. Here’s the basic idea:

  1. Pick a sponsorship package like hosting a luncheon, leasing a booth or “stand” in an exhibit hall, providing a mostly useless bag or carry all for marketing collateral, or some other activity. (The conference organizers call these deals by such names as “platinum sponsor” or “open bar courtesy of XYZ Corp.”
  2. Get one or more speaking slots. You can spot the lack of objectivity in the programs of sponsor supported conferences. Just look for the companies which have two or more presentations; for example, one keynote (big bucks), one thought piece presentation with minimal sales spin, and/or one product presentation (a pure sales pitch).
  3. A list of names of people who stopped by the booth courtesy of a bar code scanner which sucks in a person’s conference ID code and the handful of people who stop by the conference organizer office and ask, “Could you give my card to XYZ Corp’s rep. She was not available when I stopped by the booth.”
  4. Watch for conferences at which the “organizer” gives lengthy presentations. These conferences often have an agenda, and it may not be the attendees’ or reflect significant issues of interest to those who have an annual migration to an event.

The problem with this approach to conferences is that when one pays money, maybe as much as $150,000, the company buying a package wants results. Getting heckled is not what the sponsor expects. Therefore, the lawsuit sallies forth.

Attendees, check out who is speaking and how these people get on the program. Conference organizers, why not put on better events so the “sponsorship” lawsuit becomes impossible?

Note: I do attend a few conferences each year. I still get invited to give a talk. This is semi gratifying, but I will be 76 this year, and I have watched the decline in presentation quality and program value. Like many aspects of the tech world, deterioration and Las Vegas razzle dazzle are now the norm.

Stephen E Arnold, August 29, 2019


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