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.
Andy McMillan’s brass bolt left on my hotel room bed for Build always stands out. It was a really lovely gift and made me feel really valued as a speaker.
Best ever conf as a speaker was ‘notconf’ , a side conf for jsconf that was as well run as jsconf itself. Beautiful venue, great audio, a demo hall, snacks, a band, a proper mc. I generally like confs with social events days. Love meeting other people, especially when I’ve travelled long to be there.
I hate draconian speaker contracts that make me personally liable if i can’t attend; I can’t sign a contract that binds my employer, and why would i risk my house when I get no personal benefit from speaking (because i don’t accept speaker fees; it’s my salaried job).
I’ve never spoken to organizers about a problem. It’s such a small community and I wouldn’t want to endanger my ability to speak.
Having a volunteer in the room to help with AV, room set up, other issues is awesome. Most conferences have this, so it stands out when this doesn’t happen.