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

Concat 2015 – By far the best experience as a speaker. The smallest details were thought of and taken care of, which was appreciated since many of the speakers were international and didn’t speak German. A small example is that on the day of the conference, the organizers had already purchased tickets for the train to the venue, and they were waiting at the front desk for us. Eliminating small stresses like that make it much easier to focus on speaking and providing valuable content. Concat was also incredibly inclusive – gender neutral bathrooms, a clear code of conduct, ability to opt-out of photographs, and tampons in the bathroom.

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.

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.

A way to meet other speakers is helpful if you are somewhere not local. Speakers dinners usually address this, but I have been to conferences where they haven’t had speakers dinners and it’s been tricky being in a hotel room by yourself not knowing anyone.

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.

An after party was far away. It was a 40 minute cab ride. I was put in a van with strangers. Two of whom proceeded to make “jokes” about sexually harassing topics. I finally said that’s a CoC violation and hey yo it’s time to knock that off. They blithely ignored me. I was trapped physically and financially in the van. I didn’t even have my wallet, and had no idea what the destination address was. I was trapped, and unsure as whether to also be scared of what could happen next.