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Open Conference Expectations

Open Conference Expectations

This document lays out some baseline expectations between conference speakers and conference presenters. The general goal is to maximize the value the conference provides to its attendees and community and to let speakers know what they might reasonably expect from a conference.

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. Basically, this isn't a rock show rider, it's some ideas that should help get the voices of lesser known folks heard.

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, and conferences should keep these expectations in mind during planning. We do not recommend that speakers send this document with their talk proposal, because that would be rather tacky. We do believe that these guidelines will help ensure quality content and quality conferences that benefit everyone.

What We, As Speakers, Ask from Conferences

  1. Recordings: Organizers should prioritize recording all talks and sessions. Now, ideally this would involve video recording, but hey, 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, information can get too stale after that. (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.)

  2. Travel reimbursement: Conferences will offer to reimburse travel and reasonable transportation costs, such as airport taxis. In some situations, speakers may opt not to accept such reimbursement, either because they prefer to pay for it, or because their company will pay for it.

  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, a speaker may opt out of provided lodging, and those saved costs can be put to good use.

  4. Wifi & Internet Access: The speaker hotel should provide wifi; if the wifi isn't free, the conference should ensure its cost is covered. Wifi can be really rough at events, so a prioritized wifi for speakers (or ethernet) works very well.

  5. Honoraria: Some events are epic and large and can cost above $1,000 for attendees. In these cases, a speaker honorarium of at least 50% of the ticket price seems fair compensation.

  6. Food & Beverages: ⅔ of our bodies are water, so let's keep plenty of drinking water on hand at the conference. The conference will provide the speaker with lunch on the day of their talk. If ticket prices are over $300, then lunch, beverages and snacks for speakers and attendees should be provided.

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

  8. 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.

  9. 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 (if this trip is going international, additional lead time would be nice).

If an event costs less than $200 to attendees, then it is absolutely acceptable to only meet some of the expectations listed above.

Good to Have

Conferences that want to make a real impression with their speakers can go the extra mile:

  • Provide a space at the venue where speakers can focus and prepare for their talk.

  • Organize a speaker dinner; you can even help fund it by selling VIP tickets that let a small number of attendees join.

  • Share a summary document with important times, locations and info immediately preceeding the event.

What We Promise to Conferences in Return

Speakers should appreciate that their obligation does not start and end with the few minutes they spend on stage. Speakers who have the above expectations should expect to spend days researching, preparing, and rehearsing their talk. They should expect to spend time with attendees, and they should expect to help the conference be a success.

Specifically, speakers who expect the things above should agree to the following:

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 the event 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 and has been updated since then. 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.


  • 07.13.2012: Revised introduction. Significant rewording of the items. New ending promises.
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I support the OCE.

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I support the OCE.

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I support the OCE.

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j3itch commented May 15, 2016

i support the OCE

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I support the OCE.

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I support the OCE.

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I support the OCE.

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I support the OCE 👍

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darobin commented Jul 20, 2017

I support the OCE.

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urig commented Jul 26, 2017

I support the OCE

I'd like to suggest to add to item 9 (Call for Speakers) that when a proposal is not accepted into a conference, the speaker should be notified by email.

Here's my suggested revision:

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