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 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 dislike it if speaker dinner is same night as attendee party so i can’t meet audience.

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.

I enjoy speaker dinners, but the most successful ones have ensured they were in small venues with little background noise; when the venue is noisy, the conversation is much more difficult, lessening the impact of the experience. The best venues have been where they booked the entire restaurant, or had a private room, with easily the toppers being the Atomium in Brussels and the Space Needle in Seattle.

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.

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.