It’s hard work pulling off a conference, of any kind. Even the “cushier” conferences for membership groups (like the PYAH–Put Your Acronym Here) have to take into account that people often pay their own way and must be convinced that attending an event will be worth their while. Hence the struggle/search (some PYAHs have an easier time than others) for big names in the field that will draw a crowd (and money), and build/maintain momentum for the conference as a Can’t Miss Event and help propel attendance in subsequent years.
It’s tricky. I get that. I’ve helped with that at a tiny company that put on an annual large event. You want to get the big names, but you also want to get the big new names, and you have to balance what you can charge for things against what you have to pay for people, and it’s a lot to put together. You also want people to get excited about who’s coming to speak, and they’re often the people who’ve generated a buzz in recent times. And we all know what they say about buzz: Buzz means controversy, somewhere, somehow.
OK. So I’m the only one to say it that way. But you know. If people are talking, it’s because they are saying things to each other, about a speaker, about a book, about an interview, about something that gives a lot of people lots to talk about, which has to include disagreement because people only like agreeing out loud for so long. So you get this of-the-moment notable person to come to your event, and everyone is excited, and they all buy the tickets to hear the keynote speech the very first morning. Victory is yours!