Speaker Agreements… Legal, Necessary, but awfully sticky

[cross-posted from Allen's blog at allenkinsel.com]

Every year PASS asks the speakers at the Summit to agree to some relatively simple terms and conditions. I don’t consider them to be anything overly involved or overbearing. For those who haven’t seen them they basically establish that a speaker owns the content they are going to present, that the speakers act as professional as possible, don’t market their products, or their companies products, and allow PASS to record the sessions.

This year the hangup for me is related to that last tiny bit. For regular conference speakers asking them to allow recording of their 1 hour session isn’t a big ask. However where Im reevaluating what we’ve done in the past is related to the all day preconference sessions.

Last year PASS recorded the preconference sessions and offered them for sale to PASS members. Just like the preconference sessions where the speakers get a portion of the admission fee, the contract called for the speakers to get a portion of the sales from the DVD’s. At the time this seemed like a fair way to do things and I still believe that the revenue share is fair.

Drawbacks

Ive heard from several different people that if these preconference sessions are recorded that it may become more and more difficult for PASS to attract the top tier SQL Server speakers to do precons. I can appreciate the position of some speakers on this, if they are giving their best content and we are distributing it digitally for what amounts to a few hundred dollars they run the very real risk of loosing actual sales of training material, or potential clients.

Benefits

On the other side, I need to weigh the risks of potentially shrinking the pool of available speakers with the benefits to the community of being able to offer these recordings. The other benefit is of course the money PASS makes from these DVD sales. To be perfectly clear, the amount of money PASS makes off of DVD sales in general is merely a pittance in the scheme of things. Having the DVD’s available and leveraging the content however is very valuable to our members and something that I think is important enough to at least explore what can be done to hopefully find a good balance

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

The way I’m leaning on this is to leave things the way they are and see if we see an overall drop in the quality or quantity of our preconference presenters in 2011 onward.  I have however thought a lot about possible ways we could create a workable model, where we allowed certain preconference speakers to opt out of recording. This could get really messy administratively, and cause some confusion/anger with attendees not knowing which sessions will be included in the recordings. The other alternative is to just stop recording preconference sessions totally, although I dont think this is a good option.

I guess what I’m trying to do here is expose an internal debate that Ive been having with myself. Ive found that often if I spend the time to write something out it helps me organize my thoughts. As a bonus occasionally, I get great comments/ideas from the 2 of you who read this.