Categories
Speaking

Simple script: Automatic talks list

I guess this will not be useful to many, but thought I’d open source it anyway, in case someone else finds it useful. I mostly wrote it because after 50+ conferences, I got seriously fed up updating the list by editing the HTML manually. Now I will only have to edit a JSON file manually! 😛

Admittedly, it’s not my best code (more like a quick hack), but it should be pretty easy to adapt to your needs, even to adapt it to lists of different things instead of talks. Using it for talks is very straight forward: Include the CSS and JS, add a list with a class of “talks” where you want it, done.

Hope you enjoy it 🙂

Links: Live demo | Github repo | Script page

Categories
Speaking Thoughts

What makes speakers happy

I wish I could speak at CSSConf.eu, but unfortunately I had to decline the invitation, as it collided with a prior speaking engagement I had agreed on. I recently got another email from the organizers with an interesting question:

We want to make this event as stress-free for our speakers as possible. Since you spoke at a bunch of events, can you share a tip or two about what will make a speakers’ life easier, and their stay more pleasant? Any typical mistakes we can avoid?

I thought it was lovely that they care about their speakers enough to ask this, this already places them above average. I started writing a reply, but I soon realized this is information that could be useful for other conference organizers as well, so I decided to post it here instead. So, what makes speakers happy?

The baseline

These are things every good conference is doing for their speakers, although they often miss one or two. They keep speakers happy, but they ‘re not out of the ordinary.

  • Cover their flights, accommodation for the entire conference and ground transportation from/to the airport (with a car, not public transport!).
  • Do not expect them to go through the hassle of booking all those themselves and then sending you receipts. Offer it as an option, but book them yourself by default.
  • Do not book flights without confirming the itinerary and personal info with them first. Also, this sounds obvious, but it’s surprising how many conferences have made this mistake with me: Type their name correctly when booking flights!
  • If hotel WiFi is not free, make sure it’s covered and included in their reservation. Same goes for breakfast.
  • Offer a honorarium, at least to those who have to take time off work to speak at your event (e.g. freelancers). Even if your budget is small and can only give a tiny honorarium, it will at least cover their meals, cabs etc while there. If the honorarium is small and mainly intended to cover miscellaneous expenses of the trip, don’t ask them to submit an invoice to claim it.
  • Have a speakers dinner before the event, where they can meet and socialize with the other speakers. This is also good for the conference, as they get the chance to catch up with their speaker friends (there aren’t that many people on the conference circuit, so we often know each other and want to catch up)  so they will talk more to the attendees during the conference. Make sure the speakers dinner does not overlap with the pre-party, if you have one.
  • Do a tech check before their talk to make sure everything is smooth. Have dongles for Mac laptops. Have clickers they could use. Use wireless lapel microphones. Have a reliable private wifi network for speakers to use if they need an internet connection for their talk.
  • Have breaks between talks so they have some margin of going overtime without impacting the schedule. If they are too stressed about going through their talk fast, it won’t be a very good talk.

Going the extra mile

These are all things one or more conferences have done for me, but they are not generally common so they are a positive surprise when they happen, not something expected.

  • Book Business class flights, especially for longer flights where passengers are expected to sleep. It’s so much more comfortable to sleep in a seat that fully reclines! I was incredibly grateful to the one conference that did this.
  • Cover incidentals in the hotel. Yes, it’s a bit risky but come on, we’re not rockstars. We won’t screw you over. In most cases it will be a pretty small extra cost and it looks really good, it tells speakers you trust them and want them to have a good time.
  • Offer a speaker gift bag. It can contain all kinds of things: Stuff that will make their stay more comfortable (stain remover, travel toothbrush etc), souvenirs from the place since we rarely have time to do touristy stuff, alcohol for impromptu get togethers with other speakers, snacks to eat during a late night craving in the hotel room, anything goes and I’ve seen conferences put all kinds of stuff in there. It’s a nice welcome gesture. Bonus points if they’re personalized based on what you’ve researched about the speaker.
  • Send out a survey to the audience after the conference and let the speakers know how they did. Let them know what comments their talk got and how well they did compared to other speakers.

Also, make sure you read PPK’s excellent Conference Organizer’s Handbook.

Categories
Speaking

W3Conf in San Francisco, February 21-22

You might have heard about W3Conf, W3C’s conference for web designers and developers. This year, I have the pleasure of not only speaking there but also organizing it, along with Doug Schepers and designing the website for it.

Alongside with yours truly, it features an excellent lineup of amazing speakers like Eric Meyer, Alexis Deveria of caniuse.com fame, Nicolas Gallagher and many others. You can use coupon code VEROU to get $100 off the already affordable Early Bird price of $300. But hurry up, cause Early Bird prices are only valid until January 31st!

Hope to see you there!

 

Categories
Personal Speaking

Dive deep into CSS3 (and Bolognese!) in Bologna, Italy

I don’t usually like to advertise my talks or workshops through blog posts, and even though I’ve given a lot, I’ve only posted about less a handful. However, this one is special: It might be my last. Don’t get me wrong: I LOVE giving workshops, teaching people new things and seeing them put them in use right away is fantastic. However, I also find them incredibly exhausting. Speaking for an entire day (or sometimes two!) is pretty much the most tiring thing I’ve done. So, given my new job at W3C, I’m not sure if I will do one again. Of course, it goes without saying that I will still do plenty of talks! 🙂

The last workshop on my schedule is in FromTheFront conference in Bologna, Italy on September 20th (in 7 days!). There are still some spots available, so grab yours while you still can! It only costs €329.00. It will be very hands-on, with interactive exercises that help you gain first-hand experience with small but advanced use cases. It will not be your usual CSS3-overview kind of workshop. Instead, we will dive really deep into a handful of CSS3 aspects that I think are most useful for your everyday work.

While you’re at it, I’d also recommend getting a conference ticket as well. The line-up has some excellent speakers and it’s only €110 more, so totally worth it!

Apologies that my last two blog posts were personal, the next one will be more technical: I have a very useful tool in the pipeline that I’m gonna release soon 😉

Categories
Personal Speaking

So, you’ve been invited to speak

I’ve been lucky enough to be invited to do about 25 talks over the course of the past few years and I have quite a few upcoming gigs as well, most of them at international conferences around Europe and the US. Despite my speaking experience, I’m still very reluctant to call myself a “professional speaker” or even a “speaker” at all. In case you follow me on twitter, you might have noticed that my bio says “Often pretends to be a speaker”, and that captures exactly how I feel. I’m not one of those confident performers that don’t just present interesting stuff, but also can blurt jokes one after the other, almost like stand-up comedians and never backtrack or go “ummm”. I greatly admire these people and I aspire to become as confident as them on stage one day. People like Aral Balkan, Christian Heilmann, Nicole Sullivan, Jake Archibald and many others. Unlike them, I often backtrack mid-sentence, say a lot of “ummmm”s and sometimes talk about stuff that was going to be later in my slides, all of which are very awkward.

However, I’ve reached the conclusion that I must be doing something right. I do get a lot of overwhelmingly positive feedback after almost every talk, even by people I admire in the industry. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten a negative comment for a talk, even in cases that I thought I had screwed up. Naturally, after all these conferences, I’ve attended a lot of technical talks myself, and I’ve gathered some insight on what constitutes a technical talk the audience will enjoy. I’ve been pondering to write a post with advice about this for a long time, but my lack of confidence about my speaking abilities put me off the task. However, since people seem to consider me good, I figured it might help others doing technical talks as well.

All of the following are rules of thumb. You have to keep in mind that there are exceptions to every single one, but it’s often quicker and more interesting to talk in absolutes. I will try to stay away from what’s already been said in other similar articles, such as “tell a story” or “be funny” etc, not because it’s bad advice, but because a) I’m not really good at those so I prefer to let others discuss them and b) I don’t like repeating stuff that’s already been said numerous times before. I will try to focus on what I do differently, and why I think it works. It might not fit your style and that’s ok. Audiences like a wide range of presentation styles, otherwise I’d be screwed, as I don’t fit the traditional “good speaker” profile. Also, it goes without saying that some of my advice might be flat out wrong. I’m just trying to do pattern recognition to figure out why people like my talks. That’s bound to be error-prone. My talks might be succeeding in spite of X and not because of it.

Categories
Personal Speaking

My experience from Fronteers, JSConf EU, Frontend and FromTheFront

This month has been very busy conference-wise. I had 4 conferences in a row, so I was flying from country to country and giving talks for 2 weeks. As I usually do after conferences, this post sums up my experiences and feedback I got from these conferences, in chronological order.

Categories
Personal Speaking

My experience from Frontendconf Zurich

I’m writing this blog post while eating some of the amazing Lindt chocolates I got for free 10 days ago at Frontend conference in Zurich. But it wasn’t a good experience only because of them!

Categories
Personal Speaking

CSS3 for developers: My Fronteers 2011 workshop

In case you haven’t noticed, in addition to my talk at Fronteers 2011, I’ll also be holding a full day workshop the day before the conference. The title of that workshop is “CSS3 for developers” and I wanted to explain a bit what it’s going to be about and why I chose to target web developers only.

Categories
Personal Speaking

My experience from the CSS Summit 2011

It’s been a few days since this year’s CSS Summit and my talk there. Where most people would assume that public speaking in a “real” conference is more daunting, I was much more nervous about this one, since it was my first talk at an online conference. I wouldn’t be able to see the faces of the audience, so how would I be able to tell if they like it or are bored shitless? Also, the whole idea of me, alone in a room, giving a talk to my laptop sounded kind of awkward, to say the very least.

Contrary to my fears, it was a very pleasant experience. In some ways, it’s much better than real-life conferences, the main one being the number of questions you get. In most real-life conferences you should be lucky to get more than 3 or 4 questions. Also, they’re usually at the end, so most attendees forget the questions they had at the beginning and middle of the talk (it happens to me a lot too, when I attend others’ talks). In the CSS Summit, I answered questions after every section of my talk, and there were quite a lot of them.

The attendees had a group chat in which they talked about the presentation, posted questions and discussed many other stuff. That group chat was the other thing I really liked. It might surprise some people, but even though I’m not afraid of public speaking, I’m quite shy in some ways and I almost never talk to someone first. So, if I didn’t know anyone at a conference and vice versa, I’d probably sit in a corner alone with nobody to talk to during the breaks. The chat makes it much easier for attendees to get to know each other. On the minus side however, “meeting” somebody in a chat is not by any means the same as really meeting someone f2f in a real-life conference.

Regarding my talk, it went surprisingly well. No technical hiccups like some of the other talks, no me going overtime as I was afraid I would (since I had to be slower), no internet connection failing on my part (like it sometimes does lately). I received lots of enthusiastic feedback on both the chat and twitter. I couldn’t even favorite them all, as the tweets were so many! That’s the 3rd good thing about online conferences: People tweet more, since they’re at home with their regular connection and not with a crappy conference wifi or a smartphone on expensive roaming.

Here’s a small sample of the feedback I got:

Categories
Speaking

My experience from Web Directions @media & Standards.next

Last week, I was in London to give 2 talks. The first one was last Thursday, in one of the conferences I wanted to go ever since I learned my first CSS properties: Web directions @media. The second one was 2 days later in a smaller event called Standards.next.