A Conference For Everyone
As the organisers of DDD East Midlands, we have a focus to try and reflect some of the values we recognise in the East Midlands Tech Scene. When going through our branding exercise we focused this down to three words that we thought represented this community:
In the aim to carry these themes through we have approached each one in a few different ways, from the way talks are selected, through to considering some of the needs of those in attendance of the event.
As this is a community focused event, we also want to be transparent on how we are trying to achieve these goals.
We’ve been incredibly fortunate that this ethos has carried through into the talks selected by our excellent attendees. The talks at DDD East Midlands are selected through popularity vote. Attendees vote on anonymised submissions, only being shown titles and talk descriptions.
For the first year, there were 15 speaking slots available. Over two-thirds of our attendees voted on what they wanted to see, and the finals selections were varied in terms of topic and speaker experience.
As organisers, we do get to have a small amount of influence to ensure there is a degree of diversity and fairness in the selection. We wanted to ensure that content wasn’t too repetitive, that there were a variety of speakers and that we had a diverse line-up. However, we wanted to achieve this while still being fair to our attendee’s preferences and the voting system.
Here are the self-enforced rules we put in place to achieve this.
No speaker got more than one talk.
There are a limited amount of talks (especially in the first year) and we wanted to give as much opportunity to speak as possible.
We also know that many speakers submitted multiple talks to maximise their chance of getting in. We want our speakers to enjoy the day, and this may be hindered by some if they needed to perform more than one, one-hour long talk.
We could select up to three talks ourselves to help ensure diversity.
There were a few caveats we put in place to make sure that this was still done in line with our attendee’s votes.
- Only talks that were in the top third of votes were selected from.
- We focused on many aspects of diversity, not just gender. The East Midlands tech scene is diverse and we wanted the conference to reflect that.
- If the selection was already varied enough, we would have no effect on the talks selected by attendees, and our influence would be capped at 20% (hence “up to three”).
We did this to ensure the diversity in the conference in terms of experience speaking, gender, ethnicity and otherwise; while also respecting the choices made by popular vote. We have tried to do this in a fair and responsible way.
Talk Stats — How you have helped.
You, the attendees, have picked a brilliant range of talks. In terms of topic, level of talk, range of experience and otherwise — you gave us as organisers very little work to do.
Different Levels Of Talks
As with most conferences, there is a trend towards introductory and overview level talks. There is something for everyone at all levels, and in our view, no matter your experience you can learn from most talks as they provide new perspectives and opinions.
It is great that there is a mix of levels that have been selected, hopefully providing something for everyone on the day.
Speakers With A Range Of Experiences
As organisers, we are passionate about being a conference that is supportive of first-time speakers. Talks at local meetups on coming up with and submitting a talk.
- Offering mentorship for first-time speakers.
- Organising a speakers workshop.
There are some amazing un-heard opinions, experiences and thoughts. Public speaking also provides a skill set that helps people in their day to day life and work. As a conference, we want to be a safe space to learn and explore these skills. We want to provide that support and be inclusive to these new voices.
A Range Of Topics
The attendees have selected talks from a range of areas within technology. We haven’t released the agenda yet, as we are waiting on a couple of confirmations from selected speakers but some of the areas we have talks in include:
- Deep Learning
- Development Practices
There is something for everyone, and we can all enjoy a wide breadth of topics, supporting these speakers and demonstrating the great camaraderie of the excellent East Midlands tech community.
Carrying Out The Ethos
The stars have aligned with attendees picking talks. We’ve been incredibly lucky that our values have been reflected in the talk selection.
As part of running this conference, we have tried our best to keep reflecting on these themes and doing what we can to meet these ideals.
As organisers we want the DDD East Midlands event to reflect the inclusivity of the East Midlands tech community. It is our aim that this event is one everyone can feel comfortable at and enjoy.
Addressing Accessibility Concerns
We have tried to cover as much information as we could think of on our Accessibility Page. It’s an aim that people can feel informed around their own specific needs before attending the event. For diversity and first-time speakers, we’ve done a lot of outreach personally. We are going to groups and meetups, answering questions, putting a face to the event. Sometimes inclusivity concerns are hard to talk about, and submitting to talk is scary. We want to be approachable and for the experience of asking questions to be comfortable.
The Opportunity To Sponsor Captioning
There is still the opportunity to sponsor captioning of talks.
Captioning is useful to those with hearing difficulties, but can also make talks clearer for those who struggle understanding certain accents or find it easier to take in textual rather than audio formatted media. This won’t be available at the event unless it is sponsored, but we’ve made it a visible sponsorship opportunity.
On social media, we’ve encouraged people to get in touch about what we might have missed or not addressed.
One big thing we will be changing for next year is the date of the conference. With this year being in half-term and us not being able to cover childcare as of yet — it’s been a big blocker for some parents. Next years event will be on the 3rd of October: not in half term.
The other piece of feedback we will act upon is that some people who were considering submitting to speak at the conference were put off by the length of the talks. We are discussing how we can alter the event for next year to be able to accommodate 30-minute talks and 5-minute lightning talks, alongside the 1-hour talk options. It is also thought this may be a good way of lowering the barrier for first-time speakers.
There is more we would love to do if we didn’t have time and budget constraints, and a lot we have learnt from this first year to take onto the next.
This particular part of our ethos covers many areas. We want to support those involved in our conference. It’s our aim that attendees also feel supported when it is needed. We also want to demonstrate (and celebrate) our support for the current thriving East Midlands tech scene, the wonderful things happening in it, and encourage others to join it.
Having a clear and enforceable Code of Conduct
To start on the toughest point, it’s our aim that everyone feels they have support, even when something untoward happens. On the build-up to the event and on the day itself, we will be reminding people of the Code of Conduct. We will also be giving information on what to do if anyone thinks the Code of Conduct has been breached.
As with any event, we hope that we don’t have any breaches and that everyone has a wonderful day and is respectful to each other. Nonetheless, we want to ensure the support framework is in place and transparent.
The most visible in this category is probably the speaker support.
From the Speakers Workshop, to talking at meetups, to offering mentorship — we want to offer support to all of our speakers and make the experience of taking part in the conference enjoyable and memorable.
To help our speakers with their future applications to other conferences, we are also recording all of the talks on the day with the help of the fantastic ShutterSocks team. Often having evidence of speaking helps strengthen applications to conferences, and we would love other places to see the fantastic speaking talent the East Midlands has to offer.
It also means the great work done on the day can be shared, discussed and enjoyed beyond the main event.
Local meetups are also a focus of ours. Advertising the great meetups in the area, speaking at them, suggesting others speak at them. The East Midlands community would not exist if it weren’t for the local meetups and the heroes/heroines that organise them.
As well as them supporting us, we want to celebrate and support our Notable Companies. Without their sponsorship, the event wouldn’t be possible. Without their technological drive, there wouldn’t be a tech community.
Partnering With Local Initiatives
At the event, we’ve got a couple of special extra guests in local organisations that are not businesses or meetups but are working to improve and support the local tech community. Super excited for you all to find out more about these organisations.
As organisers, we love our local tech community. This conference is, in a way, a love letter to how great the East Midlands tech community is — but are a few other things we are doing for this principle as well.
For our Crew, we are thanking them for their support by inviting them to the speaker’s workshop and personalising their crew hoodies. Events like the conference couldn’t happen without a great crew of volunteers, and we are grateful for all their help.
The Support Of The Local Community
For the day, we are leaning on the generosity of the local community to make this event the best we can.
We have individuals who have offered to run Hacktober sessions, Dungeons and Dragons sessions and more.
Select volunteers are helping us by writing blog posts, doing social media takeovers — making the event a collaborative effort which reflects the camaraderie of the local tech community.
As part of running this event, we are trying to be transparent with a lot of the information. This post has gone through some of what we are trying to achieve and only a few of the ways we are trying to achieve it.
Yes, DDD East Midlands Conference aims to be an inclusive, supportive event that reflects the camaraderie of the local tech scene. This is made possible by the people in our community. It’s also a hope that some people outside our community will see these qualities and want to move here, work here and join in.
We hope you enjoy the event. Just over 4 months remaining until the big day.