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 found out at the last minute that conference organizers planned to livestream the whole conference; I don’t publish my work online without checking the quality first, so this was an awkward surprise. Now I always ask before accepting speaker invitations, because conference organizers are starting to treat this as a default option (without considering that the treatment of women online might make some of us really hesitate before publishing videos of ourselves).
It’s the small thoughtful things, like a car waiting from the airport to the hotel - this isn’t necessary at all - but it was really lovely. The same conference took all the speakers on a day trip after the conference which was also great.
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.
The best event I’ve spoken at was small but the organiser paid all speakers, covered travel and organised all accommodation and the meal and breakfast beforehand which really helped reduce stress - I could just turn up and not worry about finding somewhere to get dinner and breakfast the next day.
Whether I ask for a fee depends on where I’m speaking and why. If it’s a for-profit conference I will expect all expenses + a fee — always. If it’s a community event I’m much more willing to pitch in for free. It depends.
I was speaking at a conference with tiered speaker perks. So speakers would ask me if I was going to an event and I would be surprised and embarrassed to say I didn’t know anything about it.