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.
An event didn’t tell me that they were only covering the 3 nights of the conference (though they agreed to book me 4 nights at the hotel). It was a fancy hotel, too, so I got a $350 bill on checkout.
The best speaker gifts have been those that proved useful later. One conference I’ve been to has been held in winter months, and I have a scarf and a beanie from them that I wear still years later. Another provided panel speakers with a portable travel battery that can power my phone several times; that’s been stellar.
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!).
I speak for free at community conferences, but typically require travel reimbursement and compensation for my time to participate in conferences held to promote for-profit brands.
If the conference is making money from tickets, I expect speakers to be paid relative to their experience, the ticket price, and number of attendees. Travel coverage and hotel is also an expectation in this case. If the conference is non-profit or small, these things are negotiable.
I found lunch/breaktime topic tables to be a fantastic way to connect with attendees. I also would like to see more office hours at conferences. Speaker dinners are really valuable too; I want to connect with notable people/mentors and once we are in the wild of the conference it’s hard to connect.