How To Organise a Conference

  1. The purpose of organising a conference is clear – you are a king maker. Do not confuse your mission as one of helping the communication of science. The selection of papers has nothing to do with the quality of the science; it is all about picking whose career will prosper and whose will not.
  2. Your first task is to set up the program committee. This is your prime sponsorship opportunity. Noting that many large corporations with a need to be seen to be innovative will sometimes draw attention to the number of papers their staff have at conferences, they will be very open to approaches of sponsorship. Your value proposition for them is that by sponsoring your conference to a sufficient level they can be guaranteed a slot on the program committee for one of their staff. These staff will of course use their position to reject papers from competing corporations – this aligns perfectly with the prime mission of king making. This deal can also be used by corporations in hiring incentives – researchers can be guaranteed acceptance of a few papers if they choose to join the relevant corportation.
  3. Great care must be taken in organising a conference; at the end of the day, a conference is about meeting people not about attending talks (talks are for people who have yet found someone else to talk to). 
  4. It is important to get as many people as possible to attend the conference. A valuable strategy is to pay some A-list celebrity big-shots [Platinum big-shots (BSI)].
  5. Always remember the power law of banquet enjoyment: The enjoyment of the social occasion grows quadratically with the number of people attending. What works best, especially if you have more than 500 people attending, is a buffet; especially if there is not even enough space to accommodate the 150 meter long queue that will form.
  6. It is important to ensure big-shots (especially the high grades) are not made to feel socially awkward at the conference. They would have travelled here in the front of the plane and not had to mix with the novices, so you need to take care to keep the groups separate at the conference. Do this for the different components of a conference as follows (see the BSI for explanation of the levels):


  • Platinum level:  Private rooms on the top floor of the hotel; champagne and caviar; two complementary booth babes per poster provided by the conference in addition to any you may bring; security guard to prevent any attendees below gold status attending (unless escorted by a gold or platinum big shot).
  • Gold level: 1.5 times standard size posters; air-conditioned rooms; 3 booth babes per room (shared amongst all posters). Free beer.
  • Silver level: Standard hotel poster boards; no air-conditioning; free water. One editorial assistant from a famous journal can serve as a booth babe.
  • Novice: Wear a sandwich board in the lobby hotel. No drinks or food allowed. Booth babes are strictly disallowed.


You need to treat the audience differentially according to their status as follows.

  • Platinum: Segregated seating in private box; continual bar service provided by conference booth babes; gigabit/sec wireless access to the internet; invite them to ask questions at any time according to their leisure; provide them with remote control of the AV system so they can mute the speaker’s microphone and fast forward their slides; provide a photo library for the AV technician to project the Big-Shot’s photograph in case he is mentioned in a talk. Such photos should clearly indicate (using the star system – see BSI page) the status of the big-shot.
  • Gold: Can sit in the front two rows. Can ask questions during the talk with the explicit permission of a platinum member. Drinks available at cost. 100Mb/s wireless.
  • Silver: Can sit if Gold or Platinum members give them a seating pass. Can bring own drinks (max 2). Can ask questions if pre-screened in writing by platinum member one week in advance of conference. I shared phone line available for network access.
  • Novice: Forbidden from asking questions. Must stand at rear of room. No drinks allowed. No laptops allowed.
  1. One of the most important components of a conference is the badge. It is imperative that the badge properly reflects the status of the wearer as in the example provided here in order that a distracted big-shot does not inadvertently initiate a conversation with a researcher from a lower social class.
  2. Do not make the common mistake that banquets are for eating. In order to provide attendees with a conversation starter, it is the program chair’s obligation to make a few brief remarks during the banquet – between 50 and 55 minutes usually suffices, with no more than 85 slides.
  3. The above conversation starter should not be confused with the formal address during the banquet. Every attendee will be fascinated to know the following statistics. You should read them all out, and provide handouts for people to take with them for meta-analysis purposes:
    1. Names of all the big shots on the program committee, in status order;
    2. Weather statistics for the 5 day program committee meeting in the Bahamas (average daily maximum temperature, number of hours of sunshine, average water temperature, and average cloud cover)
    3. In order to get people thinking about their obligations to report on their workshops, you should explain (at least twice in case people miss it) the reviewer’s comment that the program committee thought funniest.
    4. A complete lexical analysis of all keywords and their second and third order correlations.
    5. Top 100 words used in papers;
    6. Most popular font
    7. Highest level of compression achieved by pssq
    8. Submission rate during the last week at an hourly level
    9. Correlations between acceptance rate and IP number
    10. Number of submissions and accepted papers.
  4. Think carefully if the world really needs another conference on the subject matter. If in doubt, just do not organise yet another conference on machine learning.