[OSGeo-Discuss] On the cancellation of FOSS4G Calgary 2020

Luigi Pirelli luipir at gmail.com
Sat May 30 00:42:10 PDT 2020

thanks Jon for the detailed description

Luigi Pirelli

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On Fri, 29 May 2020 at 17:34, Jon Neufeld <jonneufeld at gmail.com> wrote:

> Hi All,
> As you know the Calgary LOC has made the decision to cancel FOSS4G 2020
> due to the COVID19 pandemic.
> I have posted the rationale for our decision here
> https://www.jonathanneufeld.com/the-rationale-for-canceling-a-global-event/
> and have included it below as well.
> TL;DR Trying to host a major international event during a pandemic
> carried huge financial and reputational risks and we decided the safest
> thing was to cancel.
> Here is the full post:
> ===================================================================
> As we recently shared on Twitter and the website, FOSS4G 2020 Calgary
> has been canceled. Clearly this wasn’t the outcome we were hoping for
> after working for nearly two-years to bring this event to Calgary, but
> the reality of COVID-19 is that we likely won’t see large gatherings of
> people in 2020.
> Recently another chair of a regional FOSS4G event wrote asking about our
> decision to cancel and the reasoning behind it. In the spirit of
> openness and an open community I thought I would share it here:
> Hi, <name> Thanks for your note, I’m happy to share our thinking on
> canceling the event and hopefully it can help inform your decision.
> Context: Fast facts about FOSS4G 2020
> - Planning Time: 2 years (Oct 2018 to Aug 2020)
> - Target Attendance: 1,200 to 1,500 people
> --- Break even attendance: 800 people
> - Total conference budget: $1M+
> - Real Cost to Cancel: ~$60 CAD
> We were well on our way to building a strong global FOSS4G event, we had
> sponsors lined up, a government grant for ~$100k, and 116 people had
> already bought tickets. When COVID19 first hit we thought it would pass
> reasonably quickly and that things would “return to normal” fairly soon,
> but as the travel bans came in to place and the government here extended
> bans on gatherings it was clear that we would either need to
> dramatically scale-back FOSS4G or cancel it altogether. Since we are so
> close to the USA we were expecting that a big portion of our attendees
> would be Americans. For the first time in history the longest-undefended
> border in the world, the one between Canada and the USA is closed and
> the USA has the highest Infection rate of any country on earth; they
> aren’t getting that under control in the near future.
> Keep in mind that we have already signed agreements with the largest
> Convention Center in the city, and four major hotel chains. These
> contracts all carry minimum cancellation amounts which ratchet up as you
> get closer to the event. If we cancel them sooner, we end up paying less
> , but if we cancel later the bill gets dramatically higher. When the
> travel bans went into place the minimum payments added up to $250k CAD,
> and if we waited to cancel the week before the event they were well over
> $500k!
> The gamble then, was this: do we try and host an event with a reduced
> scope and hope that we get enough attendees to at least break even,
> where do we cancel it and hope we can get out of the minimum payments.
> We figured that even if the borders opened and COVID-19 disappeared
> right away that people’s travel habits would not go back to “normal”.
> Companies have slashed their travel budgets, people would still be wary
> about international travel and large gatherings, and the world would not
> return to a place where a global conference would work. Based on this we
> determined that we could not hold an event that would break even.
> TECTERRA Inc, the company backing up and organizing FOSS4G this year, is
> a small nonprofit and we wouldn’t be able to sustain those kind of
> losses. We also worried about the negative impact too reputation, both
> the reputations of the event and of the organizers, if we held an
> unsuccessful event.
> All of this added together made it clear the only choice was to cancel
> the 2020 event. We briefly discussed trying to push it to 2021, but
> there were two things in the way. The Buenos Aires team was unwilling to
> move their event, and a 2021 event means our local organizing committee
> would have spent three years working on a five-day event. To be clear, I
> don’t fault the 2021 BA team for holding fast, they have an LOC focused
> on delivering an event at a specific time and I respect that.
> So reluctantly we pulled the trigger and cancelled the event. We have
> been fortunate that our venues and hotels were willing to work with us
> and canceled the contracts without any further penalty.  I don’t need to
> tell you how hard it is to cancel an event after putting in this much
> work, and with your event happening later this year there is a chance it
> might still work. I think it all depends on how quickly the COVID-19
> situation changes, and the geographic area from which you’re pulling
> your attendees. .
> My unsolicited advice to you would be to wait for a while and see how
> this shakes up in your region. You still have months until your event
> and hopefully the governments and organizations in your region can get
> COVID-19 under control. There is still the outstanding question of
> whether people will be willing to travel to a conference then, and
> you’ll need to weigh that carefully.
> I hope that future LOCs don’t endure a once-in-a-life-time pandemic, but
> I do wonder what the future holds for large in-person conferences.
> In my opinion, FOSS4G is so much more than material presented. It’s
> about meeting people, building relationships, and the serendipitous
> bumping-into-someone-in-the-coffee-line that really builds and
> strengthens community. This is nearly impossible to emulate with an
> online conference, and until someone finds a way I think that large
> in-person gatherings will continue.
> ====================================================================================
> Thanks for your understanding, and hopefully we can get together in 2021!
> Jon
> Co-chair FOSS4G Calgary 2020
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