Session selection process
Session selection is a large undertaking when organising a major Drupal event!
Events of this size regularly get more than 500+ session submissions and choosing a lineup is a huge operation! In fact, some topic tracks receive more than 130 sessions each, which means that no more than 5% of the submissions received can be selected.
While making selections is a huge task, it is a very straight-forward one. We choose all sessions through a process that reduces bias and creates transparency, and we are happy to share it with the community here. The process is very similar to other Drupal events on this scale.
Who does session selection?
Session selection for each track is performed by the track chairs, who volunteer for the job, are interviewed, and are then appointed by the program manager. Each track (Publishing + Media, Government, etc) has two to three track chairs. They have typically participated in the track chair capacity at a previous Drupal events and know the processes, while one of the team should be new to the track chair position for a fresh view and as an advocate for new target groups.
Tracks chairs participate in an interview process with the program manager to ensure that they grasp the time commitment and responsibility associated with the position.
The people that are selected always have experience with Drupal, have attended and/or volunteered at local Drupal events, are strong in the field of their track, and are able to commit to the entire program.
Who defines the tracks?
Once the entire team is appointed, they work within their own tracks as well as with the entire program team to define their respective tracks. At this time, they lay out what kind of themes will appear in the track and what types of information or talks they hope to have submitted.
During the Call for Papers, track chairs may reach out to speakers they have seen in the past or speakers that they know have presentations that could align with their track description. In these conversations, a spot is never guaranteed - it is merely a request to submit a session. Track chairs also promote their tracks in the wider Drupal community to encourage people to submit sessions.
This promotion happens via blogs posts on the Drupal Europe blog, on company blogs, through official or personal social media accounts, and so on.
What happens after the call for papers closes?
After the Call for Papers closes, the program manager compiles all of the submitted sessions into a working document for the entire track team to have access to. The track chairs have access to the following information about each session from the node: session title, description, speakers, speaker experience and desired track.
Over the course of the following two weeks, the track chairs read every submission in their track. If they feel that the session does not belong in their track, they will reach out in a weekly meeting with the entire team to another track chair to pass the session to the more appropriate track. during this time, track chairs can also reach out to speakers for clarification about their session proposal.
Once all of the sessions have been read, the track chairs rate each submission based on session content, speaker experience, and topic relevance.
What about conflicts of interest?
At the onset, track chairs all disclose anything that could be seen as a conflict of interest: for example, if they proposed a session in any track including their own, or if a co-worker submitted a session and they know they will score with a bias, if they are co-presenters on any sessions, etc. These conflicts are handled by adding an additional track chair on for the rating process to provide a 3rd score for averages.
If a tie happens, a mediator from the organizational team will come in and provide feedback on all of the sessions in the track to provide a 3rd score for averaging as well. After ranking, the track chairs use those rankings to select the top talks that they have an allotment for and a few alternates. Each track chair presents these ‘selected sessions’ to the entire track team and the program manager.
During this sharing time, the team is looking out for the following:
- No speaker is slated to have a solo session more than once
- One speaker does not have more than 3 co-presentations at the conference, as we only aim to schedule each person to present once per day
- Talks are not overlapping the same content between multiple tracks
During this meeting, with feedback from the team, each track chair compiles the final selected sessions. Because of possible feedback related to the items listed above, it is possible that these final selections are different than the ones that the track chair originally presented and an alternate was chosen. Once that is established, the program manager contacts the selected speakers via email with the good news.
After all sessions are confirmed, the program manager then reaches out to the remaining sessions to let them know that they were not selected.