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Your Speakers

Your Speakers

A talk for ConfConf, a conference for conference organisers, on what helps speakers do a great job at your conference.

Rachel Andrew

May 20, 2016

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  1. Survey Stats: Gender *Of those who declared their gender. Other

    includes non-binary, non-conforming male and other.
  2. Experience and frequency of talks 4 Experience ranged from 1

    year to 20 years as a speaker 4 Respondents had spoken for 1 through to 40 events in the past year 4 One person had spoken at over 100 in the last year!
  3. The Call for Papers or emails to potential speakers This

    is your first impression make it a good one!
  4. "Evidence that the conf organizers are going to dot their

    I's, cross their T's, and generally take care of their business efficiently."
  5. "The best had a demographic breakdown of the audience, including

    jobs, level of experience, and areas of interest at the conference."
  6. If you do not cover expenses say so Be honest.

    It is a reasonable expection that travel, accomodation and ticket are covered. If not, say so.
  7. How long does it take to prepare a talk? In

    my survey the response was remarkably consistent. Between 40 to 80 hours or "2 weeks work" was a very common answer to a freeform question.
  8. What does it cost to speak (assuming travel/accomodation is covered)?

    4 for self-employed people 2 or 3 days of work while at the conference 4 child or petcare to pay for 4 employees may have to use vacation time 4 food and drinks at the event
  9. What does it cost to speak? For a self-employed person

    many of the costs are in losing opportunities for billable work. 4 10 days of prep 4 2 days of travel 4 3 days at the conference 4 plus extra expenses due to being on the road
  10. "2 days of conference cost me the paid time off

    that it takes 7 weeks to save up."
  11. "Mostly just holiday time, so much so that in the

    last 2 years all of my holiday has been taken around conferences."
  12. "... so much strain on family that it causes my

    wife to forbid future conference talks. [My spouse] shoulders most of the additional burden & there's not a dollar figure on it."
  13. Call for Papers 4 When is the deadline for submission?

    4 When will speakers hear if they have been accepted or not? 4 What is the selection process? 4 Will you use the submitted abstract as the talk description on the site?
  14. Emailing speakers Be clear if this is an invitation to

    speak or an invitation to apply to the call for papers.
  15. Emailing speakers Be personal - tell them why you want

    them specifically to speak at your event.
  16. "Why I, rather than some other expert, would be an

    important addition to the conference."
  17. Offering rejected speakers a discount is a nice touch Especially

    if they might have missed the early bird discounts.
  18. If you are booking flights 4 ensure you have the

    correct legal name of your speaker for the booking 4 and make sure that name is only used for the booking, not on the event site 4 if there are a number of flights ask your speaker their preference 4 find out if they will want to check a bag if there is an extra charge
  19. Booking Accomodation 4 check arrival and departure dates 4 does

    the speaker have any special requirements - for example an accessible room 4 will the speaker be travelling with a family member? 4 would they prefer to arrange their own accomodation?
  20. "I once got picked at a 4 day conference to

    give a tutorial on the first day, and a talk on the last day, but their speaker's package only covered 3 nights hotel. It was an interesting conversation, but was made right in the end when they agreed to cover the full 4 nights."
  21. Skimping on hotel stays may risk a talk A missed

    flight connection could mean the speaker missing their talk!
  22. "Recently I had a conference want to send me back

    on a flight the last day of the conference meaning I would miss it, that made me sad."
  23. If you have a strict budget Offer speakers fewer nights

    in the pricier hotel or more nights in a budget one
  24. Consider the location of the hotel and transport options 4

    Not all speakers will be comfortable travelling alone around a strange city. 4 If the chosen hotel is some way from venues, arrange safe transport.
  25. Technical information 4 slide format and resolution 4 availability of

    internet connection from the podium 4 will playing audio or video present a problem? 4 any notes based on your knowledge of the venue / setup 4 if you want speakers to present on a conference laptop*
  26. "Two weeks before the conference they sent a reminder with

    all my travel details in it and a 9-page speaker briefing pdf."
  27. Your contact details Details of a point of contact that

    will be responsive when the speaker is in transit and while at the event.
  28. Travel information 4 How am I getting to the city?

    4 What is the address of the hotel? 4 How am I getting from the airport to the hotel? 4 What should I do on arrival?
  29. Personal Schedule 4 What time is the speaker dinner and

    where do we meet? 4 What time is registration at the venue? 4 Is there a technical check? 4 Where should I present myself before my talk? 4 What other commitments do I have? 4 What time and where is the after party?
  30. Other useful to know things 4 What costs at the

    hotel are covered? 4 What is not covered? 4 If there are meals at the event outline what is provided, especially if your speaker has explained any food allergies. 4 local travel information 4 tips on local sights to see if the speaker has half a day after arriving
  31. Be ready to help out Make sure someone is watching

    the contact email address and phone number.
  32. "One event said they'd send a car to pick me

    up from the airport — but it didn't arrive. And couldn't contact the organisers on the day either. Added a lot of stress to getting to the venue on time. "
  33. People like practical gifts 4 A hoodie 4 An umbrella

    when rain is forecast 4 Travel power adapters - correct for the speaker's origin 4 Sim cards and mifi devices 4 Portable batteries 4 lipsalve and moisturizer
  34. Thoughtful, personalized items and experiences 4 A city walking tour

    or trip to a local attraction 4 Putting something in the gift bag a speaker has mentioned hoping to try 4 Small hand crafted items 4 Food gifts that can be eaten or shared during the conference
  35. "I spoke at a conference with tiered speaker perks. So

    speakers would ask me if I was going to an event and I would be surprised and embarrassed to say I didn't know anything about it."
  36. "I think a really great speaker dinner goes a long

    way to making everyone feel comfortable and welcome. Too many events, I feel like I walk in, speak, and leave without really interacting. Those dinners, when they do happen, can be gold."
  37. "The speaker dinner allows me to get to know a

    few people from both the organisers and the other speakers. If this is in a city I'm not used to, it makes me feel more confident for the rest of the conference as I at least have a couple of people I know."
  38. Tips for speaker dinners 4 Not too late! 4 Check

    food restrictions, preferences and allergies 4 If "dinner" is more "nibbles" let speakers know 4 Relaxed and social is generally more important than expensive and flashy
  39. Speaker dinners let you check in with each speaker Is

    everyone well and happy, can you help anyone?
  40. Make contact with all speakers 4 Make sure you have

    been in touch with every arriving speaker 4 Have they everything they need? 4 Let them know of any changes to the schedule or setup
  41. "I once spoke at a conf in Prague where the

    organizers didn't make themselves known to the speakers. It was totally anonymous. There where two evening events, still none of the organizers bothered to say hi to a speaker."
  42. A Speaker Room 4 Providing a quiet room with wifi

    can be helpful to speakers. 4 Especially where the conference is not in the same location they are staying. 4 In my experience they encourage speakers to stick around, rather than hiding in the hotel.
  43. "There have been a few conferences where I've never even

    met the organizer and there appears to be no staff or volunteers. You show up, find your room, set yourself up, give a talk, and just kind of fade away."
  44. Introducing Speakers 4 Explain what will happen 4 Should they

    be on stage or walk on after the intro? 4 Check the details of the intro 4 Be enthusiastic - why are you excited they are at the conference?
  45. "Once an organizer gave me a really half-hearted intro in

    which he said something that basically suggested he wasn't sure why they'd asked me to speak in the first place but maybe I'd be good."
  46. "Despite being promised the ability to do a technical check

    (it's in my contract), at my most recent talk the A/V person wasn't in the room before I went on. I had to set up everything myself."
  47. "At my first ever Event Apart the projector was blank

    for the first 5 mins of my talk. I had no idea what to do or what went wrong, but I saw Toby and Mike quietly but quickly making their way to the stage and all the cables to sort out whatever had went wrong. Realizing that they had my back in that moment and were on top of finding a fix was extremely reassuring."
  48. Helpful feedback 4 structured 4 broken down 4 filtered through

    the organisers before passed on to speakers
  49. "CocoaConf 2012 made gave people that turned in speaker feedback

    raffle tickets with good prizes. It got me over 50 responses to a talk with 100 people attending, and I received all the feedback only 15 minutes after my talk was done. It was really helpful."
  50. Code of Conduct Violations Have a plan in place for

    what you will do if you are informed of a code of conduct violation.
  51. "I was bullied at a conference by a sponsor and

    the coordinators told him I told them."
  52. "I brought up something with organizers once (an attendee didn't

    seem dangerous, just a little lecherous) and they waved it off with 'oh, him–he's a nice guy, just confused'."
  53. "At a Ruby conference in Florida, myself and two other

    speakers were harassed. [The conference organizers] dismissed our report of harassment by the male attendee because "he is a good guy and has a family and didn't mean it that way." I actively encourage my peers to avoid that conference."
  54. "At a meetup I felt the behaviour of an individual

    went against the coc - I did feel very uncomfortable doing so, but they handled it so well. They made me feel very comfortable in approaching them and that it had been the right thing to do. They kept my identity anonymous through the rest of the process when approaching the individual and dealing with the issue."
  55. "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."
  56. Useful links 4 http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/wiki/Conference_anti- harassment/Policy 4 http://www.ashedryden.com/blog/codes-of-conduct-101- faq 4 http://www.ancestralhealth.org/general-information/

    staff-guidelines-handling-code-conduct-violation 4 http://the-orbit.net/almostdiamonds/2014/04/10/so- youve-got-yourself-a-policy-now-what/
  57. It is not enough to have a code of conduct

    You need to have policies around what happens if people don't stick to it.
  58. "Once I had a horrible cold right before the conference

    (Smashing Conf in Oxford), so I let the organizers know, not because I was going to cancel, just as a warning that my voice wasn't going to be great. Cat brought me tea, honey, lemon, and various medicines to help me feel better."
  59. "An old injury flared up, and the organizer insisted on

    immediately setting me up with a same day medical appointment and personally covered the expense of it."
  60. "One time at Agile Manchester I was due to speak,

    but was ill. I dragged myself there not really feeling up to it and this was pretty obvious to the organiser when I got there. Within 30m the organisers had arranged an alternate speaker, and sent me home. They still covered expenses, accommodation, etc.despite me not speaking."
  61. Email speakers with feedback and links to coverage Ask for

    their feedback on the event too. You can use positive feedback when advertising your CfP next year.
  62. Speakers from diverse backgrounds may need extra help They may

    not be used to travel They may not have much cash, or credit cards to fall back on
  63. Expenses and fees are a diversity issue You have huge

    privilege if you can afford to speak for free or cover your own travel and accomodation
  64. How can we make this safe? 4 properly cover food

    and travel costs 4 "buddy" system 4 cover a +1 to attend 4 24/7 contact number in case someone gets stranded 4 lots of reminders that the number is to be used for anything
  65. "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."
  66. "For my first conference, I arrived at my hotel feeling

    like an imposter a small welcome pack a note from the organisers made me feel really welcome and at home. "
  67. "+1 ticket for a friend, so I can give it

    to a friend who wouldn't otherwise see the event"
  68. " InfoShare sent me a zip of all the photos

    that had been taken of me at the conference by the official photographer."