Welcome to the mycamp.rocks newsletter! I hope you are enjoying these as much as I am writing them! 😄
Here’s the deal. I’ll try to be: (1) brief (2) target to organizers, speakers, and/or attendees. Trying to keep this ad free but I’ve left a spot at the bottom for “misc things”.
You can find this issue on the mycamp.rocks website: https://mycamp.rocks/issue-14
How you communicate with your organizers and volunteers during the conference is important. A few things to consider that I can pass along:
- Just about everyone has a mobile device these days and the majority of conferences I’ve been at use Slack or a similar app because it’s versatile and can alert large groups of people at once. Here’s an older but still valid blog post on when I switched to Slack for conference on-site organization.
- Walkie talkies are valid considerations but honestly the last few conferences that brought them never ended up using them much. Consider using them when INSTANT (and vocal) communication is a must (perhaps coordination over longer distances or after parties).
- Keep all critical phone numbers (organizers, key volunteers, venue contacts, security, etc.) in an easy to reach doc to everyone during the conference. Even hard copies to pass out just in case.
Ten Things New Speakers Should Remember:
- Practice makes perfect but don’t over do it. If it makes you feel better have a script in your notes in the presenting app if possible but aim to be comfortable enough not to have read from them constantly. But feel nice you have something to fall back on if your mind goes blank.
- Get honest feedback from friends, family, your local meetup or anyone you feel comfortable with. Don’t wait until you are completely done with your presentation. Depending on the subject, get feedback from friends and the community about your subject – you might find a particular angle or point that is worth bringing up. Record yourself giving the presentation and examine the video afterwards (some even listen without the video to focus on the audio).
- Strive to make slides high enough contrast and large enough font for those not sitting in the front row to be able to read it comfortably. Don’t stress on having fancy designs or cute animated GIFs – clear and easy to read slides that stress the main points of your talk have a longer shelf life.
- Confirm with conference organizers if someone will be recording your talk and taking photos. You’ll want this later for personal and promotional purposes. Don’t wait until after your talk to ask these! Ask a good friend or (worse case) fellow conference attendee
- Have a backup of your slides on a USB drive you bring with you (having an online backup doesn’t hurt and could be faster to pull up potentially but always bring a physical backup).
- If your talk needs wifi for some reason (demoing a website) plan for the unfortunate scenario if internet isn’t available. Have a backup plan (perhaps a screenshot or a video recording of whatever you were about to do live).
- Confirm with conference organizers about wifi, power, and adapters that might be needed. Even if they claim to have all of that available, plan just in case they don’t. Have your own adapter or dongles for your laptop. Even if they have an adapter sometimes they don’t (well) with all laptops.
- If you are concerned about ending on time – especially if you plan on taking questions – figure out a way for you to be alerted comfortably as you speak. Some use the trick of setting a phone vibrate alert. This might be useful even if there is a room moderator tracking your time or not.
- Give thought when you want to share your slides. Often speakers upload this prior to the talk and share the URL in an opening or closing slide. Removes the “where can I find your slides” question. Also you can tweet this information out (set a scheduled tweet to remind people near the close of your talk perhaps). Consider multiple formats for your slides (PDF, html) and even more than one language if it makes sense (part of a multi-language conference for example).
- Relax. You should consider your first conference talk – no matter how much you practice – as a “practice talk”. In other words, don’t stress yourself out. Expect to make mistakes (seasoned speakers make lists of things after many many of their talks). Setting proper expectations might help you dealing with stress and imposter syndrome before, during, and after the talk. But you have a story to share. You got this.
This is toward a special kind of attendee (that isn’t an organizer): The Volunteer.
How do you know you’re not being taken advantaged of as a volunteer and contributor to an event?
- Set clear expectations before both sides agree: For volunteers there should be a page where can review what’s being asked and expected. Some conferences ask for specific types of volunteers, other conferences just need a group of “raw volunteers” for various things. Want to make sure you can hear talks or be available at certain times? Make this clear before agreeing to anything.
- It’s ok to say no. Although I haven’t seen evidence of pressure in the WordPress community for contributing or volunteering when it comes to events, actual/implyed/or each imaginary pressure might exist for someone “to give back to the community” by helping with an event. Usually doesn’t come up when giving a small amount of time, but factors more then greater amounts of time are asked or required, leading possibly into conflicts with real (paid) work, family time, spiritual obligations, etc. Again – clear expectations help – but don’t be afraid to not accept or decide that you can no longer volunteer or organize. Be respectful and tactful (walking away from a key post a key moment requires tact) but also be clear why you cannot continue. Perhaps you can help out in a way that doesn’t conflict. Clear and respectful communication would be what is aimed for here. Organizers and community often won’t know there’s a problem unless you say something first.
- Feedback and thank: Why thank organizers? Gives you the opportunity to give them feedback, to reinforce what they did right (in their shoes you would want the same thing). But honest feedback is something they should value even more. If the event happened again next year (or whenever) would you be interested in helping out again?
Misc. Stuff 🤷♂️
These tips were written and/or gathered by David Bisset, someone who’s been helping organizing conferences (such as WordCamp Miami, but others too) and meetups for over a decade. He’s still learning so share any of your tips and it might be included in a future newsletter.