We here at Ladies in Tech are super excited to celebrate the (almost) end of summer by doing another awesome giveaway! Thanks to Ari Stiles, we have a free ticket to give to one of our awesome readers for CSS Dev Conference happening Oct 21-23 in beautiful Colorado!
To win, just complete both of these two easy steps:
1. Leave a comment on this page sharing with us a website or resource that promotes women in technology. Be sure to leave your full name and correct email when commenting. And then:
2. Tweet a link to this article!
Easy as pie!
Contest ends: Tuesday Sep 10th at 10pm EDT!!
As an extra radical bonus, we have a Q&A with Ari, one of the event organizers! Ari has shared with us the background on how she got into the conference organizing scene and advice for those wanting to speak!
A Q&A with Ari Stiles, co-organizer of CSS Dev Conference
Q: Tell us about CSS Dev Conference!
This year’s CSS Dev Conference takes place October 21—23 in Estes Park, Colorado, at the legendary Stanley Hotel. We’ll have two days chock-full of CSS presentations — 24 sessions spread over three tracks — plus keynote talks from featured speakers like Zoe Gillenwater, Chris Coyier, and Nicole Sullivan. The third day is an optional workshop day, a deep-dive into subjects like Responsive Design or SMACSS.
My favorite part of CSS Dev is the way sessions are chosen: we have an open call for session ideas, then we post those ideas online for community voting! We remove the name and job title / employer from each session to avoid biases. The end result is a wide range of sessions from a diverse group of speakers, some of them well-known, some of them new voices. The sessions themselves cover everything from typography and animation to Sass and complex grids. We just visited the hotel last week, and are finalizing plans for all of the evening events now! Colorado is gorgeous in the fall, and this will be the first conference for which I get to caution attendees about wandering Elk.
Q: You run a lot of awesome conferences! How did you get into being a conference organizer?
I was a self-taught Webmaster (remember *that* title?!) at the University of Texas here in Austin, and started attending SXSW Interactive to keep learning and to meet more people in the Web design industry. After a couple of years I offered to redesign some of their print materials for purely selfish reasons, thinking “if people come to SXSW, if they can find everything they need, if they enjoy themselves & then tell their friends to come, I’ll get to meet even more people like me.”
Fast forward to a few years later, I had become part of the staff and was working on just a few of the many, many mini-projects that make up the giant conference that is SXSW.
Then I met Christopher Schmitt, who was a frequent speaker at SXSW Interactive and many other events. After about a year of us geeking out and talking about conference minutia, we decided to start our own conference company. We are in the midst of our fifth year, and it is still challenging and so fun to see all of the plans come together for each event.
Q: How do you choose your speaker lineups?
We go to a lot of conferences. A LOT. I am continually delighted to see how each has its own community, its own vibe, however temporary. With any event you create, once it is released “into the wild,” the participants become co-creators. It is fun to build the best foundation possible, then step back and see what happens.
For our online conferences, it depends on the subject, really. Each of our online conferences is about a specific topic. Usually Christopher has the majority of the speaker lineup in his head, based on speakers we have seen over the past year or so. Then, for any open slots, we talk it over, do lots of research, and maybe consult with colleagues, based on their expertise. For the most part, Christopher specializes in event content and I focus more on logistics, training, and production.
When it comes to our other conferences, we’re trying new approaches. The CSS Dev Conference sessions are chosen by the community, except for the keynotes and a few featured speakers. We partnered with Jen Robbins this year to create ARTIFACT — she chose most of those speakers based on their successes at tackling multi-device design challenges, rather than just going for well-known speakers. Our In Control conference speakers usually have either a teaching background or a firm Web standards / best practices approach.
If the conference concept is strong, the type of speakers needed becomes apparent pretty quickly. We find that strong concept or theme makes for a more focused group of attendees, as well.
Q: Any tips for speakers wanting to speak at one of your conferences?
The basics: Do a lot of public speaking. Find a topic that gets you fired up (http://ladiesintech.com/finding-your-killer-talk-idea) and keep talking about it. Do whatever it takes to get over your nerves (http://ladiesintech.com/overcoming-stage-fright). Start recording your talks and watch/listen to the recordings. Always ask for feedback, from both the organizers and attendees. And if you are so inclined, finding a mentor is a good idea, too.
Once you have some experience, it’s important to talk to different *kinds* of groups, and to speak in different settings. Most people start out presenting to local classes, or at Refresh meetings, or even joining toastmasters. All of these are options are fine, but consider other outlets for your presentations, too: online conferences, screencasts, even your recorded audio synced with a deck on slideshare. Keep track of all of your appearances and everything you’ve posted, and make sure it’s easy for a conference organizer like me to find!
Finally, step away from the industry norm every once in a while. There is a traditional bit of advice here — that is, to attend the conferences at which you would like to speak, to introduce yourself to the speakers and to the organizers, and to continue to network and build relationships with the current conference elite. This is a recipe for more of the same.
Focus instead on your topic: explore new processes, solve common problems, and explain your findings well. Accomplish this and you will have plenty of speaking engagements, trust me.
Thanks so much to Ari for helping with this giveaway and for sharing such awesome advice!
Now, get to the sharing of resources in the comments below and tweet away to win yourself a ticket to a great conference!