First of all, thanks for inviting me to speak at your conference. I take it as a great honor!
I travel a lot and need to be picky about the events I decide to attend. I am regularly told by attendees that they only decided to buy a ticket to the conference because I was speaking at it, so I try hard to live up to that expectation. I also do my best to market the event to my audience to help get people to come.
Here are just a few things I hope conference organizers take into account during planning, preparation, and execution of any conference I attend. In no particular order.
You can find all the information about my bio, photos, etc. on my info page.
Diversity of Speakers
I come from a very well represented group of people (white men). I will not speak at your event if everyone else looks like me. Please put in the work to diversify your speaker lineup.
Parties/Events that are actually fun
Some people really enjoy drinking alcohol and yelling at each other all night. I am not one of those people. I don't drink alcohol and I don't like yelling over loud music to communicate. I go to conferences to meet people and share ideas. If you really want to have the drunken yelling match type party then that's your choice, but it would be awesome to have another place for people like me to be to have meaningful conversations.
Some conferences have a separate room with board games, milkshakes, etc. That's perfect. Gives us something to do to break the ice and a space where we can just enjoy each other's company.
Sometimes there will be a hackathon or something which I will probably not participate in, but I've definitely enjoyed in the past.
Calendar Event Invites
When preparing for an event, I get countless emails telling me where to be and when for different activities and things. Please don't force me to manually enter this into my calendar. 99% of the time your speakers all use digital calendars (and most probably use Google Calendar). Please send a digital calendar invitation for every when/where event going on for the conference. It helps a great deal (this includes hotel checkin/checkout time with confirmation numbers). And please include the physical address in the location and details in the description.
I expect to be compensated for the time and effort I put into preparing and delivering my talk. I'm often cited as a reason people bought a ticket to come to the conference and I expect that value to be recognized for events where the organizers are making money.
Many event organizers are community-led events that are just trying break even if they can. If you're on a very tight budget and struggling to get sponsors/ticket sales, talk to me and I may be able to waive the honorarium for you. If I agree to come, then it's because I appreciate what you're doing for the community and want to support you.
I expect conferences to pay for all of the speakers' conference ticket, flights, hotel, and domestic travel because otherwise the speaker pool is limited to only those who can afford to travel. I don't attend conferences which do not pay for these things for speakers.
I prefer to schedule my own flights and get reimbursed for them. Reimbursement transfers are cheapest for you and easiest for both of us if you use wise.com. PayPal is also fine (though it can be expensive for you). If that's overly complicated, then I'm fine scheduling through an agency as well.
One other thing to keep in mind is that I don't plan to stick around for much site-seeing after the conference. When I travel I leave my wife at home alone with four kids and I want to get back to them as soon as possible. This might mean I miss out on some or part of the after-conference activities which is a bummer, but it is what it is. Eventually I'll bring some or all of my family along with me on these trips and will stick around longer 😄
I expect a first class ticket for my international travel. Business class is fine for domestic travel. Also, for international travel I need a day to recover from the trip. So I prefer to have around 24 hours between the time that I land and the time I'm expected to do anything for the conference. Please plan my hotel accommodations accordingly.
I prefer that you book the hotel(s) for me during my stay. You know more about the area and most of the time conferences have a special bulk rate anyway. Please send me confirmation details as soon as you have them (along with a calendar event for checkin/checkout time).
I do prefer that the hotel be close to the conference venue if possible.
Who doesn't love gifts? Especially when traveling internationally, having something unique to the location I'm traveling to is appreciated. I definitely appreciate it. Gifts are a kind gesture that is certainly not expected and I won't be let down if I don't get one. If you do want to give your speakers a gift, here are some things to keep in mind (at least for me).
Please keep in mind that I typically don't check baggage and pack light, so I can't take anything very large. Also coffee/tea related gifts are pretty popular but they don't work for me since I don't drink coffee or tea. And I've had an unfortunate number of jam-like products confiscated at airport security as well, so make sure whatever you give is something I can travel with.
If you'd like to provide a gift, but you're uncertain of what to offer, donation to a local charity in my name is deeply appreciated and doesn't bring with it logistical challenges.
When I travel, I like to make the most of my time out there and that means I'd love to participate in other events going on in the area. Sometimes when another conference or meetup finds out that I'll be in the area they will ask me to join their event as well. So long as it doesn't conflict with the commitments I've made with you I will likely try to make it work.
If participating in the other event involves additional travel or hotel costs then the other event will pay for that. However, this has no baring on the commitments we've already made. If you've agreed to put me up in a hotel for certain days and you've agreed to pay for my flights, then you should not expect that will be adjusted if I accept an invitation to participate in other events.
You and I make a commitment and we'll both keep our end of the commitment. That's how that works. I also don't feel that it's necessary that I tell you about all the other commitments I make for myself while traveling. Some conference organizers are bothered by this because they think that it's unfair they are paying for my travel and other event organizers get to piggy-back off of your costs. I understand why you would feel the way you do about this. But if we made a commitment, and we're both keeping our end of the deal then that's it.
All that said, I have no problem asking the other event organizers to help pay for part of the cost, but I have no expectation that they will.
If we're still discussing the commitments before we make any agreement, you might consider reaching out to other event organizers and seeing whether you can combine costs to handle my travel and hotel costs. I will likely be very much in favor as long as it doesn't require me to be away from my family for a really long time.
I expect talks I give to be recorded and made available on YouTube promptly after the event. If you record it but don't make it available on your own YouTube channel then I would like to be able to upload it to mine.
Even better if there's a live stream so my family can watch at home.
I'm generally happy to conduct workshops at conferences (see my list of workshop
topics on my
/workshops page). Workshop tickets should be
between $300-$600 per person per day. I'll let you choose an appropriate price
for your part of the world. I expect to receive 60% of the post-expenses revenue
or 40% of the pre-expenses revenue. I'll let you choose which one you prefer.
Most often my workshops sell quite well, but please do keep me in the loop of ticket sales either way. If we haven't sold more than 7 tickets two weeks before the event then let's talk about canceling the workshop, refunding attendees, and changing my travel plans.
The workshop should not be recorded without approving it with me first.
I expect all the regular things you'd need for a workshop like:
- A projector everyone can comfortably see
- A podium I can stand at with a stool I can sit on
- Tables and power for attendees
- Coffee and snacks throughout the day
- Lunch that is included in the ticket price
When I'm invited to speak, I need to know these things:
- What topic do you want me to speak on? For keynotes we need to discuss the needs of your audience and what I am currently excited about and how to get those two things to align.
- What's the intended audience like for my talk and how many people do you expect to be there?
- How long is my speaking time?
- What time is my speaking slot? (Remember, calendar events are appreciated)
- Will there be Q&A? (I prefer no, but I'm fine if so).
- When can I do a tech-check?
- What screen resolution will I have?
- Can I use my own laptop, if so, will we be using HDMI? Will computer audio be supported?
- Where do I go after my talk is finished?
- Is there a speaker's lounge? Where is it?
- If my talk starts late, can I still speak the full-length? Will there be a countdown clock that starts when I start speaking (yes please)?
Code of Conduct
I expect a code of conduct to be well advertised and enforced at every event I attend.
Connecting with attendees during the conference is a lot of help. A twitter hashtag is great. A discord server is awesome. A conference app is "meh" for me personally, but some people really like it (a capable website is better).
Please make sure that people's names are clearly visible on the both the front and back of badges/lanyards.
A cool idea I implemented for Remix Conf is to allow people to provide their social avatar for printing directly on the badge. For a lot of people, I recognize their twitter avatar better than their name or face, so it would help me know whether I've digitally met the person I'm talking to.
Another idea is try to avoid those annoying badges that make a tinkly sound whenever they move. Otherwise while the speaker is talking you'll think someone is playing jingle bells.
If you have questions of things I haven't covered in this document, please contact me and I'll get it added. I'm sure I'm missing some stuff. Thanks for the invitation!