Issue #2

Welcome to the second newsletter! Thank you for making the first one a success. That sound you heard recently was my jaw hitting the floor seeing that over 150 people have subscribed (not to mention reading on the website).

If you’re new here I try to be: (1) brief (2) target to organizers, speakers, and attendees (might not have tips every week for all three). I haven’t promised anything regarding ads or other content but I’ve left a spot BELOW ALL TIPS for misc things.

Feedback: (1) ping me on Twitter (2) email me (3) i’m going to leave comments open for now for approximately a week on the website posts if you want to leave your own feedback/$0.02.

Thank you!

You can find this issue on the website:

Organizers 😊

Have a discussion about “calls for papers” or accepting speaker applications and you won’t get far without talking about diversity (if that subject doesn’t come up then that’s a problem to address all together). Diversity is important not just for gender and race, but also in backgrounds, age, and other factors. 

I think everyone is on board with having diverse speakers. The question is what are the best approaches? That’s a deep subject… but I wanted to first share 4 tips that come up the most in my experience with meetups and WordCamps (these events in particular present unique challenges because on their volunteer / non-profit origins and the fact they do not offer speaker compensation).

  • Your call for speakers page and your website should stress what types of talks you are looking for. The more diverse the types (and skill levels) of talks and subject material, the better the odds you’ll have more diverse speakers speak.
  • Make sure website and marketing photos include a diverse representation of speakers. If this is your first conference or don’t have good real world shots, stock photography is ok. But REAL shots of a variety of speakers, especially those in traditionally under-represented groups, work the best because they are real. People who are checking out their conference want some sort of confirmation that they (however they identify in this thinking process) are welcome.
  • Monitor speaker applications – if only a certain demographic is applying, brainstorm with your organization team. The MOST EFFECTIVE thing that I’ve done personally and seen others do is reach out to local meetup groups, non-profits, companies, etc. Invite particular individuals. The point here is don’t just say “hey we are accepting speakers” on Twitter and email and sit back. Even if you are a popular conference, it should be important to find new and diverse speakers. That requires some foot work and networking.
  • If you are a tech conference or WordCamp, use local meetups to your advantage. If someone is truly wanting to be a part of the community by speaking, then it would be great to see evidence of that of them speaking locally at a related meetup. Ask meetup organizers if the speaker did a lot of self-promotion and get a feel if that speaker should be encouraged to apply.
  • Again, monitor your speaker applications and don’t wait until the deadline to access the situation. Sometimes some speakers might be a good fit but their submitted talks might need polishing or you might be able to suggest to them alternate talks.
  • At the end of the day, my personal belief is that you don’t pick speakers SOLELY to fill a quota of any type. But it makes sense that the more diverse your speaker applications the better the chance the chosen speakers will be diverse.

Future newsletters to cover some tips on selecting speakers from submissions! 🙂

Speakers 🎤

Here’s a brief tip when asking questions during your talk.

Usually speakers like to ask questions to the audience to get a general idea of what experience level(s) or preferences the audience has. For example, you are doing a talk on a particular WordPress plugin – with your first question you want to determine who hasn’t used the plugin.

Instead of asking “How many NOT familiar with this plugin?”

Ask: “How many people are familiar with this plugin?”

The first question – the negative – might put off some people and actually put them on a defensive. They might not take an action (raise their hand) to denote they haven’t used a thing, especially if not many hands go up before their hand. They might be embarrassed even.

Asking the positive version of the question (because most people will be ok or even proud to admit they have used the plugin) gets more people to raise their hands on average – and you just pay attention to those who didn’t raise their hands (and if you can, see their facial expressions for a little more feedback).

I have personally gotten more honest feedback from audiences with this method then any other.

Attendees 🙋🏽‍♀️

One of the best tips I can give that you don’t see a lot when people list off “things to bring to conference” lists: surge protector and even an extension cord (if your travel bag can handle it).

Often at conferences you’ll get to a spot where people are using the only outlets available. Better yet, someone is looking for an outlet near you. You can be the hero and whip out the surge protector. Then you’ll make some new friends.

If you happen to have adaptors and dongles (you could have these if you have spoken or volunteered at past conferences) bring them. You’ll also make friends if a speaker at a podium suddenly needs a cable. This happened to me many many times.

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.