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Open Conference Expectations

Open Conference Expectations

This document lays out some baseline expectations between conference speakers and conference presenters. It was prepared by three experienced conference speakers -- one of whom has also organized conferences -- and influenced by many others. Its goal is to let speakers know what they might reasonably expect from a conference, in exchange for the hours we expect them to spend researching, preparing, and rehearsing, and the time they will spend away from home and family.

We believe that all speakers should reasonably expect these things, not just speakers who are known to draw large crowds, because no one is a rockstar but more people should have the chance to be one. We believe that conferences are better -- and, dare we say, more diverse -- when the people speaking are not just the people who can afford to get themselves there, either because their company paid or they foot the bill themselves.

These expectations should serve as a starting point for discussion between speaker and organizer. They are not a list of demands; they are a list of reasonable expectations. Speakers should freely adapt this list to reflect their personal expectations. We do not recommend that speakers send this document with their talk proposal, because that would be tacky. We do believe that these guidelines will help ensure quality content and quality conferences.

What We, As Speakers, Ask from Conferences

  1. Call for Speakers: The call for speakers should occur at least 90 days prior to the event, with invitations to speak sent out no later than six weeks before the event (additional time should be included if international travel will be required).

  2. Travel reimbursement: Conferences will offer to reimburse travel and reasonable transportation costs, such as taxis to and from the airport. Speakers may opt not to accept such reimbursement, either because they prefer to pay for it, or because their company will pay for it. If the conference does not have to reimburse the travel costs of a speaker, that speaker or that speaker's company should be acknowledged as a travel sponsor.

  3. Lodging: Conferences will offer to obtain and pay for lodging for speakers for at least the night before and the night after a speaker's talk. Again, the speaker may opt not to accept such reimbursement, and their support should be acknowledged.

  4. Wifi & Internet Access: The speaker hotel should provide wifi; if the wifi isn't free, the conference should ensure its cost is covered. Speakers should have prioritized wifi access at the venue; if wifi is not available, speakers should have some means of accessing internet at the venue.

  5. Recordings: Organizers should prioritize recording all talks and sessions. Ideally, this would involve video recording, but we acknowledge that quality video recording is both expensive and time-consuming -- audio recordings paired with the slides is a decent compromise if video isn't possible. Recordings should be made available under a permissive license (CC-BY-*) within six months of the event. (If you're worried that releasing video will depress ticket sales, other conference organizers will vouch that, to the contrary, recordings are an excellent tool for driving ticket sales in future years, and are also an excellent sponsorship opportunity.)

  6. Honoraria: If attendees are asked to pay more than $1,000 for an event, speakers will be offered an honorarium of at least 50% of the ticket price.

  7. Food & Beverages: The conference will provide water to speakers throughout the day, and will also provide the speaker with lunch on the day of their talk. If attendees are asked to pay more than $200 per ticket, the conference will provide both speakers and attendees with lunch, drinks, and light snacks throughout the day.

  8. Schedule: Conferences will let speakers know the time and duration of their talk at least two weeks before the event.

  9. A/V & Power: Conferences will provide a quality projector with at least 1024x768 resolution, projected onto a screen that is appropriately sized and readily viewable by all attendees in the room. Conferences will also provide video adapters for the computers that speakers are most likely to use, and power outlets at the podium.

  10. Diversity: Conferences will go out of their way to invite speakers and panelists from a wide variety of backgrounds, ethnicities, genders and points of view.

If an event costs less than $200 to attendees, then we will make enormous exceptions to the above items.

Good to Have

  • The speaker hotel should have room service available (at the speaker's expense) during breakfast, lunch, and dinner for all 3 days, in case the speaker wants to stay in and focus on their talk.

  • The conference venue should include a space where speakers can prepare for their talk without being disturbed by attendees.

What We Promise to Conferences in Return

We will deliver a quality presentation. We will speak clearly, not too fast and not too slow. We will observe the audience's reaction and adjust accordingly. We will read more books than is probably useful, but at least Presentation Zen and Confessions of a Public Speaker -- in order to improve our presentation skills.

We will respect our audience. We will rehearse our talk in front of a small audience in order to ensure we are prepared. We will ensure that our talk does not go over the allotted time. We will think about the people in the back row, and think about whether the room will be light or dark, when we design our slides. We will say "um" as little as humanly possible. We will deliver talks that are current, correct, and of genuine interest to attendees; we promise not to make our talks a sales pitch. We will refrain from language, images, or behavior during the conference that may reflect poorly on the conference, and will adhere to a conference's code of conduct if one is established. We will post our content and demos on the web within 48 hours after the conference.

We will help you succeed. We will consent to the distribution of video and audio recordings under a permissive license. We will commit to spending time with attendees during your event. We will commit to publicizing the fact that we'll be speaking at your event. We will gladly make reasonable adjustments to our expectations -- and go with the flow if the unexpected occurs -- as long as you treat us as you would want to be treated if you were in our shoes.


This document written by @rmurphey @divya and @paul_irish in June 2012. It is a living document and open for edits from anyone -- just fork this gist, and get in touch if you think we should include your changes. Organizers and speakers should feel free to reference or adapt this document when discussing the arrangements for speakers.

@alper

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alper commented Jul 13, 2012

What about for instance: asking a speaker to pay for their own ticket?

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