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Floor Drees
Floor Drees

Posted on • Updated on

Developer Advocates need to be better event citizens

This post is the result of frustration built up over the recent years, around how some Developer Advocates show up at events. As an organizer I recognize behavior that makes me not want to invite individuals again, and warn my fellow organizers against inviting.

People that only show up minutes before their scheduled session, and/or leave right after, or who are impossible to communicate with.

Allow me to share a few examples.

The late-joiner
The person talking about DX platforms introducing Backstage, while just before one of the main folks involved in the project did an elaborate walk-through. At a single-track conference.

Check the schedule, and at least show up for talks on topics that you will cover as well, so you can reference those when it's your time to speak.

Or that time when one of the speakers introduced the idea of applauding whenever a speaker would drink water (we all know that we forget, and hydration is important), and 2 speakers got real confused about the for them seemingly random standing ovations.

The leaver
That time when a speaker sparked several breakout sessions with his talk, but was long gone, and didn't participate in these follow-up discussions.

Stay after your talk. You don't have to attend the social if that's not your thing, but at the very least make sure people can find you if they have questions following your session (that's right, "session", it's not your "show").

The rockstar
Speakers (too many instances to name a specific example) who, against the explicit wishes of the organizers, don't use Slido for the Q&A / run massively overtime / skip the tech check / don't send their slides beforehand / decide to shout instead of using a microphone. Or: just don't reply to organizers questions.

You get out of an event what you put into it. Helping event organizers quite literally setting the stage, by being an excellent participant, elevates the community as a whole.

Making the best out of your event participation

While most conferences offer a “work room” for people to take calls, try and keep your work calls to a minimum. This may be easier when it’s a one day event, but even with a multi day event, make sure you can fully focus on the conference.

Sometimes we will meet colleagues or friends at events, and while that can be exciting when we’re all remote most of the time, strike a balance where you meet with loads of new friends as well. Or: introduce your colleagues to other attendees.

When your talk has not been accepted this time around, it’s still smart to come prepared. The event may have opportunities for impromptu sessions (lightning talks, ignites, open spaces, discussion rooms, …) - different lengths and formats - where you can bring your content.

All speakers making it to the event, in the current turmoil, is rather rare, make sure you can act as a backup speaker. Tell the organizing team that you’d be happy to be on standby.

Another fantastic way to participate in an event, is to host/MC. You get ample time with the speakers, have a great excuse to talk to attendees, and get to set the tone for an event. Make sure you work with the organizers to create a welcoming environment in which connecting is encouraged.

Know before you go

If this is the first time you’re attending a particular event, get to know the event before you go:

  • Watch videos of previous years
  • Get familiar with the sessions (formats) and speakers
  • Familiarize yourself with their code of conduct
  • Find out how to ask questions / connect with others: is there a Discord server, are they using Slack, slido, one of those conference apps? Make sure you’re registered and filled out your profile - be approachable
  • Miscellaneous opportunities: job board, sticker exchange table, side events

More is more

Speaking at an event only gets better when the event is… better. By sharing the CFP for an event with colleagues, your network, and on social media, you make sure the best possible people find out there is a Call for Speakers, and apply. Better events make the community you’re in better, it’s not like a pie where your piece gets smaller when you share it with more people.

We can do so much better as an industry. Let's.

Top comments (2)

jennjunod profile image
Jenn Junod

Thank you for including action items of way to improve our attendance!

Biggest takeaways for me that I thought were a “given” at a conference yet I’ve been an organizer and seen this happen 🤯

  1. Stay in communication with the organizers, so important!!
  2. Stay after your talk to speak with those that may have questions
  3. Get to know new people and introduce people you may already know
jansche profile image
Jan Schenk (he/him)

This started as a rant, but I love how you still made me feel better at the end. Not worse. Not because I agree with the rant, but because you gave useful insight and hints for improvement.