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.
I don’t have a credit card. So whenever confs are “It’s cool. Just charge it and we’ll reimburse you” I have to awkwardly go to a colleague/open source friend/childhood friend/someone (I’m not close with my family) and beg them to drop $3k on their card for a while until the conf reimburses me.
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.
Recently I had a conference want to send me back on a flight the last day of the conference meaning I would miss it, that made me sad, also no breakfast included in the hotel, which can be stressful first thing in the morning, not something I need when i’m essentially working.
One conference had a projector with a bad bulb that made all my dark blue slides with white text look like yellow with white text, so I was called out in the speaker feedback for making slides that were “unreadable.”
I am not really pro-swag, generally. Confab has fantastic attention to detail with their speaker gifts though. One year, they gave us engraved astronaut pens (their theme was space) with our names on them. I just thought the level of detail was insane. They always include handwritten notes in the speaker gift bag to say thanks.
I received the gift of an umbrella once when the weather was wet - this was a great because it was a very warm country and I hadn’t planned for it!