Conference Speaking and a Special Thanks to Keen IO
May 28, 2015
By the end of a conference where I present a talk, I’m so tired I can’t find the right words to speak. I take long pauses in conversations and say, “what’s that word again…?” as though English is my second language. It’s not. It's my only language.
Public speaking is both exhausting and loads of fun. Presentations require hours of work, and preparation usually continues until the moment before a talk begins. Not because a speaker is unprepared, but because it feels like there’s always something that can be tweaked, improved, or delivered better. Once the talk is given, there’s usually a question and answer session, which is like a pop quiz on the topics presented (it’s also my favorite part because the questions are often so insightful). Once the public Q&A is done, you usually spend anywhere from 20 minutes to several hours talking to other conference goers about your topic. All throughout the day you bump into people who have thoughts and want to chat about anything and everything. Which is great; I absolutely love talking to people at conferences. But by the end of a conference where I present a talk, I am exhausted.
There are a lot of good things happening in the programming community.
In the last few months, I’ve been to a lot of conferences. Community-focused, open-source conferences are my favorite. In my opinion, they showcase the best of the software engineering community. PyCon US especially has made huge efforts to be inclusive and diverse. Childcare is offered for conference goers, and the event works to be kid-appropriate and friendly. I’ve seen a few parents with middle-school age kids going to talks in the last few years. The PyCon Programming committee also has a strong representation of women reviewing the talk proposals for the event. As the numbers of speaking proposals from women has increased, the number of female speakers has increased . Which to me indicates a system that is working. This year there were 94 presentations at PyCon US, and 26 of them had a female presenter. As a result of all this effort, the female attendance at PyCon US is above 30% when only 4 years ago it was below 15%.
A special thanks to Keen IO
A few months ago, I was invited to be a keynote speaker at PyCon Sweden. Because I'm not currently employed by a company, I can't afford to travel to a location like Sweden to speak. I looked into applying to for a grant from the Python Software Foundation, but the PSF usually issues grants to the conference organizers as opposed to individuals for financial aid and conference aid. The PyCon Sweden organizers already had a lot on their plate, so I decided that I would tweet out into the internet and see if any companies that I knew would be interested in sponsoring my trip. Within a day, Kyle Wild from Keen IO responded. And what did they want in return for this very generous use of company money?
They saw sponsoring a speaker as an opportunity to do something nice in the community. In fact, Tim Falls at Keen IO is dedicated to these kinds of sponsorships, both for individuals and organizations. When he told me this, I thought it was the greatest thing I had ever heard. Granted, I was a little biased and very excited that I was going to PyCon Sweden. But above and beyond my selfish enthusiasm, I saw this as a really powerful, really positive way that tech companies large and small can be involved in supporting the community. What better way to support the software community than by financially supporting diverse voices?
Sponsoring Voices in the Community
Having a diversity of voices who speak at community conferences is a critical part of improving diversity and inclusivity in the tech world. And while I love the sound of my own voice, I don’t just mean mine. Sponsoring speakers, especially diverse speakers, is a great way to help people who might not otherwise be able to afford speaking to do so. There are a lot of really interesting people who are independent contractors or who work for companies that simply can’t afford to send them to conferences all over the US and the world.
So the call to action is as follows. First, give the folks at Keen IO a high five for being really nice. Second, if you work for a company that has any extra cash, encourage them to use it to help support community speakers. Donating to the Python Software Foundation or similar organizations that deal out money for financial aid is a great use of community funds. Finally, for smaller satellite conferences, encourage your company to financially support individual speakers who need help attending.
For people out there who want to speak at conferences but can't afford it, feel free to reach out to me or other members of the community to find ways to finance your talk.
Keen IO is a tool to collect and store huge amounts of event data – those constant little interactions that happen all day throughout your apps. Keen IO stores those events in their cloud database, so you can play around with your data whenever you’d like. Event data can be anything – signups, upgrades, impressions, purchases, errors, shares. The arbitrary JSON format makes it easy to grab exactly the data you're looking for through Keen IO's API.