New to Speaking?

Defining Vocabulary

  • CFP — Call for Proposals. Sometimes this is called a Call for Papers or Call for Presentations instead. It’s essentially about what you want to speak about (and for research conferences sometimes includes a writing component!) Check the twitter account CallBackWomen. Also check which lists open CFPs that use the PaperCall site for proposal generation.
  • Honorarium — generally a small payment for services, generally to cover some portion of travel or hotel stay. Be aware that this may be taxable, and not all conferences will send you any documentation about it. Make sure you keep track of these items and deal with as needed.
  • Ignite — started in Seattle, this form of talk has caught on for it’s short format. It’s a total of 5 minutes, with auto advancing slides. Every 15 seconds the slides advance for a total of 20 slides. It’s possible to duplicate slides if you have some topics you want to talk about a little bit longer. Key to a successful ignite is lots of practice. LOTS OF PRACTICE. and not stressing out if something fails because it totally can happen. Slides don’t advance, they advance too quickly, slides skip. Be prepared to just talk to your audience.
  • Ignite Karoke — Presentations that are prepped in advance by organizers. People from the audience sign up and see the images for the first time as they give the talk. The goal is to tell an engaging story based on the pictures without any kind of prep.
  • Lightning Talk — a shorter talk. Ignites are lightning talks, but not all lightning talks are ignites. Lightning talks range from 5–10 minutes generally.
  • Panel — usually a longer session that includes multiple people (ideally with different views!) with a moderator who prepares all the questions and ensures that everyone gets an opportunity to speak.
  • Hands-On Workshops — Generally a deeper dive into a specific technology or practice that gives participants the opportunity to work through materials. These take a lot more prep time and it’s important to prepare participants for expectations and whatever pre-requisites that are required. Sometimes these are also called tutorials.
  • Open Spaces — self organized spaces where conference organizers set up time to plan and break out into sessions. If you are not 100% ready to give a talk, this is a good way to propose an idea and see the different views and ideas that people have around that idea.

The ‘First’ Time

Hints and Tips

Reasons to Choose a Conference

  • Travel
  • Cross industry experience
  • Networking
  • Experience
  • Friend time with non-coworkers
  • ?

Questions to Ask your Organizers

  • Is travel/hotel/transportation covered?
  • What are recommendations in the area for hotel, transportation, meals, entertainment? Some conferences provide this information on their website. For longer conferences this is really helpful.
  • Do you provide any coaching?
  • What is the audience make up? (Even if you’ve attended before, it’s helpful to get this information) Sometimes you can find this information in the prospectus for sponsors. For example, Agile Conf has a Conference Background section that lists make up of job roles and international attendees. When preparing a talk for this conference, I know that I should be very aware of using acronyms or memes that might not convey across cultures. I also know that with my operations background, that I’ll be in the minority based on less than 5% Operations. Any Operations specific terminology I use, I should define and highlight it’s context.
  • Is there a pre-event speaker’s dinner? This gives you an opportunity to meet all the speakers prior to the event and get an idea of what everyone is going to talk about. If you are giving a similar talk to someone else, see how your talk compares. I’ve had experiences where I needed to quickly clarify some slides when the same words were used but in a different context from another speaker. It would have been so helpful to have a pre-event speaker’s dinner. As a speaker at a multi-track conference you also may not get the opportunity to meet speakers.
  • Is there a post-event speaker’s dinner? If there is not a pre-event, hopefully there is a post-event which allows all the speakers to get together and say AHHH. And share feels about the experience and give feedback to the organizers.
  • Will there be a quality recording/captioning of my talk? Captioning provides accessibility to your talk and gives you the opportunity to see what you said. I often can’t remember whether I covered all my points. It’s really helpful when giving the talk next time. Quality recordings are really helpful for your portfolio of talks. Some conferences expect you to provide a link to past speaking.
  • Do you provide childcare/mother’s room/..? Ask for what you need, regardless of what it is.
  • Do you provide meals that don’t have X? If the conference includes meals and you have a food sensitivity or allergy, ask for it. If they don’t have it, make sure to get information about local restaurants so that you get your needs met.
  • Is there a Code of Conduct? How do you handle violations of the code of conduct?
  • Is there a speaker room? The speaker room is your get away from other folks to do final prep, chill out before your talk, recharge your laptop if needed.
  • What is the aspect ratio for the screen? This is critical for when preparing your slides. 4:3 and 16:9 are common.
  • What is the setup of the room? Theater, rounds? Podium? Stage?
  • What adapters will be available at the podium?

When are you qualified to speak?

What is CallBackWomen?




Dev Rel @ Google

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