Issue #8

Welcome to the 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”.

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 😊

In a previous issue we shared a tip about the Code of Conduct sign, and in the spirit of that we want to reflect on the bigger picture: how can organizers view their entire event in terms of the “before, during, and after” when it comes to safety and CoC related issues.

The above tweet is what prompted me to start diving into this sooner rather than later. Here are a few thoughts to get the wheels turning, and I would like to dive into each of these in depth in future issues:

“The Before”

Probably what first pops into most organizer’s minds when starting a conference are the obvious (and very good) things: establishing a clear Code of Conduct policy and publishing that on the website. There are also subtle ways to remind attendees as well, such as reminders on social media before the event. A “I agree to the conduct” checkbox in order to register for the event also works as well.

“The During”

The focus during the event is at least two-fold.

First, educate your volunteers and organizers to know how to spot possible violations. This might require a training call or training “class” in a physical space from an experienced organizer or individual. Make sure volunteers are evenly spread at the venue – they might even have shifts to make sure no “holes” form in coverage. Volunteers usually don’t need to act or look like “police” but just their presence alone can help some feel safe and even prevent issues. The volunteers in turn will feel comfortable knowing that they know the procedures and who to report to.

Secondly, the method for an attendee to report a violation needs to be clear, easy, and private. We already mentioned the sign but repeat the basics during opening remarks for the conference as a reminder. Allow multiple methods of reporting a problem that is monitored 24/7 – this could be text message (which means a phone number), Slack, online chat or form, and/or physically reporting at the venue (say at the registration desk). The more choices, the more comfortable someone will feel.

Make sure there is a man and a women available – or a measure of diversity – to ensure that someone can feel comfortable approaching or discussing the issue with a representative that they feel confident in. Not to be blunt, but these people accepting responsibilities to get requests and discuss with attendees should be empathetic.

I would love to get more feedback from organizers and cover some more detailed scenarios in future posts, such as at what point do you ask someone to leave a conference after a compliant? What specifically should you keep in mind for after parties (including the “alcohol factor”)?

“The After”

Following up on a violation or problem after the conference is an important step in confirming your sincerity and organization skills to the attendee. Even if the situation was resolved during the conference, a tactful and kind follow up communication in a timely manner goes a long way. There shouldn’t be a feeling from the person who reported or experienced the issue that conference organizers “are not treating this seriously” or that “they are trying to sweep this under the rug”. Emotions are usually high even after the conference, so it’s important that organizers treat the individual(s) involved with respect.

Speakers 🎤

Going in line with Code of Conduct violations, speakers might want to review their slides to make sure that there are not any images or text that might potentially violate those policies. Even if you consider something a “joke”, that doesn’t excuse the fact that you might be at risk for not following the direction provided by organizers.

If you are in doubt of something in your slides being inappropriate reach out to the organizers or your speaker contact. Believe me, there is no embarrassment when you do this and organizers (no matter how busy they may seem) REALLY appreciate it when speakers double check. The last thing organizers want is to read about an attendee complaining about a speaker. I have personally gotten these complaints before at some events I’ve organized – often it boiled down to making the mistake of not vetting the speaker’s slides or the speakers themselves well enough.

Side note: Be aware if your slides or talk is family-friendly, if the event brands themselves as such. There are some pictures and language that might not violate a Code of Conduct (at least directly) but wouldn’t be appropriate for children or the definition of “family friendly”. I personally just make speakers aware of this – I don’t control their speech (although I will censor talk titles or anything in print). If a speaker gets a complaint from someone (such as a parent) then that’s on them. 🙂

Attendees 🙋🏽‍♀️

To go in line with the subject of violations that was given to organizers, attendees can also be eyes and ears for the conference. Organizers and volunteers should be able to cover a conference but physics and other factors not in their control do limit their ability. They can’t be everywhere at once.

So no matter if you think you might be a target, pay attention to the announcements related to Code of Conduct and safety procedures when they are announced by the organizers. While you should respect the privacy of your fellow attendees, you can also be an asset to them and organizers by not turning a blind eye or ignoring a potential problem.

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.