Organizing & Speaking at Tech Conferences

About this site

I’m Rachel Andrew - a web developer, author and frequent speaker. I presented at ConfConf - a conference for conference organizers - in May 2016. I was asked to talk about what speakers needed to help them have a great conference and be their best at the event. As I didn’t want the talk to be all about what I personally like, I opened up a survey.

The results of that survey were enlightening to me as well as for the conference organizers who heard that talk. I felt that the things people had shared deserved a wider audience than the people at that conference so the bulk of the content on this site is quotes taken from that survey. I’ve edited only to anonymize comments, and have chosen to only “name names” when the story is a positive one - giving credit where it is due.

Speakers Said

Tech conferences that don’t have a separate wifi network for speakers during presentations – usually live coding demos – are providing a bad experience for speakers and attendees, because network issues are disruptive during a talk.

I love speaker dinners and various parties. Knowing that there are planned opportunities for networking makes it more pleasant. There are way too many conferences to choose from, so I might as well choose those that are fun.

Several times I’ve been to speaker events that essentially left us in the hands of the organizers for transportation. This can be frustrating if you are feeling unwell, tired, or anxious. I’ve very much appreciated organizers who have announced alternate/ad-hoc travel arrangements for those who need them, and wish more would.

Concat 2015 – By far the best experience as a speaker. The smallest details were thought of and taken care of, which was appreciated since many of the speakers were international and didn’t speak German. A small example is that on the day of the conference, the organizers had already purchased tickets for the train to the venue, and they were waiting at the front desk for us. Eliminating small stresses like that make it much easier to focus on speaking and providing valuable content. Concat was also incredibly inclusive – gender neutral bathrooms, a clear code of conduct, ability to opt-out of photographs, and tampons in the bathroom.

Best ever conf as a speaker was ‘notconf’ , a side conf for jsconf that was as well run as jsconf itself. Beautiful venue, great audio, a demo hall, snacks, a band, a proper mc. I generally like confs with social events days. Love meeting other people, especially when I’ve travelled long to be there.

I think there’s a churn where people speak for free, do it for a bit/get popular, then either a) get sick of it and stop or b) start getting paid to do it. Doing it for free is NOT SUSTAINABLE. I’ve noticed many confs extending their CFPs and that can only mean one thing: they’re getting fewer quality proposals.