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.

So much strain on family that it causes my wife to forbid future conference talks (she softened this stance when the talk lead to paid work). Hard to quantify childcare costs when you have a spouse at home, she shoulders most of the additional burden & there’s not a dollar figure on it. If I had to pay for the childcare in cash it’s unlikely I’d ever put together an unpaid conference talk.

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).

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 think timings are important. Recently a speakers dinner I attended was started at 9pm the night before the conference, we all tried our hardest to get back to the hotel as early as we could, but it wasn’t before midnight.