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

I hate draconian speaker contracts that make me personally liable if i can’t attend; I can’t sign a contract that binds my employer, and why would i risk my house when I get no personal benefit from speaking (because i don’t accept speaker fees; it’s my salaried job).

DockerCon – speakers had private wifi in the speakers’ lounge while preparing and rehearsing for talks.

O’Reilly Fluent paid for my flight change fees to go home a day early because my daughter was ill. Beyond Tellerand provided handwritten personal note in my room, along with a package of special gifts arranged with some of the sponsors. Really felt valued.

So much strain on family that it causes my wife to forbid future conference talks (she softened this stance when the talk lead to paid work). Hard to quantify childcare costs when you have a spouse at home, she shoulders most of the additional burden & there’s not a dollar figure on it. If I had to pay for the childcare in cash it’s unlikely I’d ever put together an unpaid conference talk.

At some small community events because they are in bars, attendees gather around tables which makes it hard for a visiting speaker to sit as everybody is in groups where they all know each other (especially if you’re a bit nervous and shy like me!).

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.