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 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.
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).
I was bullied at a conference by a sponsor and the coordinators told him I told them.
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.
If an event has been run before, the imagery of previous events is important to me. If it looks like a sea of white dudes then I don’t want to go and be uncomfortable as a lone woman.
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!).