I’m Steve Smith. I’m the speaker committee chair for Agile On The Beach 2023. I’m working with our amazing speaker committee – Chris O’Dell, Allan Kelly, and Gwen Diagram – to deliver the 2023 schedule. It’s my 3rd year as speaker committee chair, and 9th as a reviewer.
AOTB 2023 will be the 12th edition of Agile On The Beach. As I write this, we’ve accepted 42 submissions, and we’re waiting for speaker invites to be sent out. We’ll soon know all of our 2023 speakers. Of course, we’ve known our 2023 keynote speakers – Jeff Gothelf, Lisa Crispin and Janet Gregory, and Ceri Newton-Sargunar – since October 2022.
AOTB CFP process
Our CFP is as follows:
- Add reviewers. Ask last year’s speakers to join our pool of prior speakers, and the speaker committee
- Run the CFP. Ask for submissions in Software Delivery, Business Agility, Team Working, Product Design & Management, and Workshops. Ask each submission to provide a title, synopsis, and takeaways for attendees, plus an outline for reviewers Run blind review. Ask reviewers to judge every submission from 1 (definite no) to 5 (definite yes), without knowing the name, gender, or employer of the submitter. Ask reviewers to leave constructive feedback where relevant
- Select sessions. Ask the speaker committee to pick the highest scoring submissions that meet AOTB requirements for speaker diversity and track alignment
- Send speaker invitations. Ask each selected submitter to check their work schedule, their travel route to Cornwall, and then accept or decline our invitation. Wait for all responses, for up to one week
- Send submission rejections. Sincerely thank each rejected submitter for their hard work, provide all available reviewer feedback, and ask them to try again next year
- Announce schedule. Publicise the conference schedule and move onto the next task!
We’re really passionate about blind review. It’s a great way to minimise bias, and create better opportunities for people from under-represented minorities who wish to speak.
AOTB 2023 changes
At the 2022 retrospective, the speaker committee identified 2 big things to fix:
- Outdated travel expenses policy. We weren’t keeping pace with economic conditions. Unfortunately, some North American submitters had to decline 2022 speaker invitations, because their projected flight costs exceeded our budget
- Declining submissions for Product Design & Management. We weren’t confident that year on year we were seeing enough new voices and ideas in experience design and product management
We’ve made our 2023 travel expenses policy compatible with post-pandemic costs by removing any expenses outside Europe. Flight costs have skyrocketed since 2020, and sadly as a not-for-profit company there’s no way we can keep pace. Our new focus is on ensuring speakers across Europe reach AOTB in a timely and comfortable fashion.
We’ve run multiple experiments to boost Product Design & Management submissions. They’ve included advertising Jeff Gothelf as a product keynote early on, asking prominent speakers to advertise AOTB in their communities, and sending out personalised product CFP invites.
AOTB 2023 stats
AOTB 2023 had 35 reviewers, ~270 submissions, ~5800 reviews, and 42 selected sessions. Overall submission quantity has doubled from 2022. Product Design & Management submission quantity has tripled, with 35% attributable to personalised product CFP invites.
We’ve also seen an uptick in Product Design & Management submission quality, with the mean score rising from 3.6 to 4.3 for accepted submissions.
Meur ras! These stats are remarkable, and I’m grateful to our speaker committee, reviewers, and submitters, for all the time and effort they dedicated to our conference.
See you in Cornwall in July, for Agile On The Beach 2023!