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

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.

One conference, I lost my voice overnight, and had a presentation mid-afternoon. The organizers sent somebody out to get a pharmacopoeia of throat lozenges, cough suppressant, you name it, it was in the bag.

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.

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 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.

Lone Star PHP is really well organized in general, especially when it comes to transportation. One of the organizers picked me up at the airport and drove me to the hotel, and they chartered a bus for the speaker dinner. They also had a good venue, good hotel, good food, and fun after-parties.