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 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’m shy and nervous around people I don’t know and in places I’ve never visited – especially if I don’t speak the local language. I really appreciate it when the organizers facilitate getting to know the area and also meeting other speakers who are there. Help me figure out public transportation.

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.

Best ever conf as a speaker was ‘notconf’ , a side conf for jsconf that was as well run as jsconf itself. Beautiful venue, great audio, a demo hall, snacks, a band, a proper mc. I generally like confs with social events days. Love meeting other people, especially when I’ve travelled long to be there.

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.