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.
The communication of the conference organisers of Frontend Conf Zurich was amazing. Two weeks before the conference they sent a reminder with all my travel details in it and a 9-page speaker briefing pdf. In it was everything I needed: Contact information, how to get to the hotel, how public transport works (very important), audience type, and a lot more info. I was also picked up from the airport and guided to the hotel in the metro. My girlfriend was coming along, and she also got a free ticket to the event. And finally they had a preparation room with a beamer, which was very convenient.
A negative experience was when I was keynote speaker at one event. Wasn’t paid, had to arrange own travel and accommodation at own expense.
Having a panel at the end of the day keeps the speakers around, so doing that helps ensure speakers are around for the “hallway track. Also, the “sit down” meals should have round tables. Long tables aren’t as conducive. Sit down lunch is a must.
I think timings are important. Recently a speakers dinner I attended was started at 9pm the night before the conference, we all tried our hardest to get back to the hotel as early as we could, but it wasn’t before midnight.
The organizers of OpenWest really went out of their way to be available to speakers and help with anything we needed - one detail that stands out is that they went and bought a coffee maker for the speaker lounge even though none of the organizers and most of the attendees didn’t partake of caffeine (it was in Utah).
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.