I’m not a conference regular, but there’s always some sort of instant backlash about a venue, web celebrity clique, lack of gender and racial diversity, the same speakers/topics and so on every time a conference is announced and as I’m not a conference junkie, I often look at them and think about what I’d actually want from the day if I did break out the Offroadcode credit card.

Here’s what I want

  1. Speakers I really respect in terms of their real world output, be it writing, active client work or sharing of code
  2. Who’s going that I would actually want to catch up with in real life and have a beer or lunch/dinner?
  3. A reasonable price – After all, it’s not just the face value of a ticket to consider, there’s British rail travel and of course the fact that  I’m not in the office working on billable client projects

I’m not really that demanding to be fair, but often I get the same apparent sinking feeling when I see “the same names” announced on a line up but I don’t know why because I don’t go to many conferences so despite several people being popular choices on the speaking circuit I don’t see them anyway. If you’re really wound up by seeing the same people talking at conferences, I’d suggest you probably need to re-evaluate what you’re going for and perhaps spend your money on something else.

Speaker qualifications

I want people to inspire me, I want to hear their experiences and given my line of work, that’s planning, design and making websites. I’d search for a relevant conference and either go or not depending on how well said conference meets the things I look for. That’s no different to choosing anything else in my life. Do I think I’d gain something from parting from my money? If yes -> part with money. If no -> Don’t.

You can never be under-qualified talking about your own experiences

Those actively working on projects seem to speak and there are a few coming up soon like David Bushell (now that’s how you outline your credentials) who I’d love to meet and chew the fat with as he’s someone who shares a massive amount of knowledge, not from a stage but via his blog and code releases.

Just because someone is working on a massive project, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re going to put forward a good talk.

Mystery speakers

Perhaps what we need is a conference where people can quit complaining about the identity of the line-up by simply having a list of talks, and the speakers background in vague detail with no identifying information. Something like:

Responsive design, our experience with 75 test devices – by Speaker X who has been building websites for 10 years including leading redesign projects for a multi-million pound turnover ecommerce site

There you go – no gender bias, no same names problem, just raw facts. I bet it would make it bloody hard to sell tickets though.

New faces

If you want to speak, you can. There are countless opportunities to get into it. Just don’t expect that your latest responsive blog theme alone will get you a headline spot at the next dConstruct though.

James Young

Written by James Young

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