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

Moritz Lennert mlennert at club.worldonline.be
Sat May 30 03:16:54 PDT 2020

Hi Jon,

All my sympathies go out to you and the team. You did an amazing job preparing all this and I'm sure it would have been a wonderful event. I admire your courage to do it in the first place, and to pull the plug which I agree is the best solution in these uncertain times.

I hope we will have the opportunity to meet in Calgary some other time.


Am 29. Mai 2020 17:34:11 MESZ schrieb Jon Neufeld <jonneufeld at gmail.com>:
>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 
>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
>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
>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
>but as the travel bans came in to place and the government here
>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
>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
>get closer to the event. If we cancel them sooner, we end up paying
>, 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
>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
>return to a place where a global conference would work. Based on this
>determined that we could not hold an event that would break even.  
>TECTERRA Inc, the company backing up and organizing FOSS4G this year,
>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
>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,
>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
>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
>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,
>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
>Co-chair FOSS4G Calgary 2020
>Discuss mailing list
>Discuss at lists.osgeo.org

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