I’ve been a frequent software conference attendee and a speaker for the last few years. I’ve seen great events with amazing speakers, facilities and food. And I’ve seen very poor events with a lot of issues like zero diversity and really weak speakers.
And I’ve been recently thinking about some recommendations for the future events and came up with a list below. I emphasize the basic diversity and inclusion rules, because our industry constantly lacks them.
- Calculate the number of invited female speakers. Female keynote speakers too. Less than 40%? Not great! Less than 20%? Terrible!
- Calculate the number of invited speakers from the minority groups. 0? Maybe 1? You need to fix this.
- Look at your website, Twitter account, printed conference materials. How do you show your average attendee? Does it represent diverse community well?
- Consider special grants for minorities and underrepresented groups.
- Make sure speakers only give one talk. It’s nice to reduce the travel and accommodation cost by asking speakers to give 2 or 3 talks, but it’s really bad for diversity and adds more pressure to the speakers.
- More than 3 parallel tracks is probably too much.
- Make sure the locations of the main event as well as all related meetups, dinners, parties and etc. satisfy everyone including people with special accessibility needs.
- Consider inviting hearing impaired people and hiring ASL interpreters (it’s not very expensive).
- Inclusion doesn’t stop here. It’s almost 2018 and we should embrace the fact that a lot of people care about their diet and food habits. It’s trivial to ask attendees beforehand about their dietary restrictions, allergies and etc. We should also stop glorifying coffee and the culture around it. Not everyone drinks coffee and needs caffeine.
- The same about alcohol. Conference after-parties consisting from a bunch of people drinking scare off non-drinking people. Consider places where you can have drinks AND do something else as well.
- Inviting a lot of software vendors to speak is always dangerous. Consider restricting most of the software vendor speakers to workshops and lunch & learns.
- Make sure that every speaker has some time to talk with the attendees after the presentation (and not just rush to catch a flight).
- Try to be punctual. If a talk is scheduled to start at 9:30, start it at 9:30 (and not at 9:33 to “wait for a few more guys”).
- Make sure there is a way to provide feedback for every speaker after a talk (ideally using an app).
- Make sure to ask every attendee for the feedback and reviews after the event.