I’ve only been to a handful of conferences in my career, and at each of these conferences I’ve attended, there’s always been someone on the lineup who I was interested in talking to. However, there’s been times where I’ve been too nervous or shy to approach them and introduce myself, or at least interject myself into a group conversation which they’re a part of. Just recently, I was having dinner with a friend who told me they experienced the exact same thing. They wanted to introduce themself to a speaker but for whatever reason, they just froze up. Over the course of 2016, I’ve become a lot better at doing this but I’m still an introvert at heart, and I think a lot of other people are too.
I can’t speak for other industries or conferences, but I don’t think the speakers intentionally make themselves unapproachable at events. After I managed to get past my own shyness, everyone whom I’ve personally met at a conference has always been polite and given me the time of day to talk about whatever it is I wanted to discuss.
As I was planning Playgrounds, one of the things I really wanted to do was make the speakers more approachable. Which is why Playgrounds has plenty of social events around the conference and doing things like moving Q&As from a public setting, to a more personal setting. I want to give attendees all the opportunity to meet and get to know each other as well as the speakers.
One other thing that I felt would make speakers more approachable was to create a podcast series where attendees can listen, and hopefully familiarise themselves the speakers. The podcasts are less about topics like “What’s new in Swift” or “How to be involved in Swift open source”, but more about getting to know the speaker, their history, current projects and so forth. Usually, I’ve found it a easier to introduce myself to someone once I know a bit about them, or have a conversation starter like:
Oh hey, I heard you’re into Commodore 64s?
So you’re also a Windows developer?
What’s it like to build your own game engine?
By creating this podcast series with the speakers, my hopes are that it will give the attendees a greater chance of introducing themselves with the people they want to meet.
We’re still recording the podcasts, although we will have the first released within the first two weeks of January. Big, big, big thanks to Karl Bowden for being a top bloke and scheduling, hosting and editing the podcasts. Without him, Playgrounds wouldn’t of been able to do this.