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 don’t have a credit card. So whenever confs are “It’s cool. Just charge it and we’ll reimburse you” I have to awkwardly go to a colleague/open source friend/childhood friend/someone (I’m not close with my family) and beg them to drop $3k on their card for a while until the conf reimburses me.

Lanyards in the hotel room on arrival - I don’t really need a swag bag, it’s an amazing gesture, don’t get me wrong, but to not have to worry about getting my lanyard on the day is great.

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.

Forcing speakers to use the conference laptop. Always a disaster. I will in fact refuse to speak at places that make me do this.

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!).

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.