Developer Advocates need to be better event citizens

Author

Bored audience memberAs an event organiser, I’ve become frustrated over the years by how some Developer Advocates show up at events. There are behaviours that make me not want to invite those individuals again. It also leads me to warn my fellow organisers against inviting those people.

Here are some examples that I want to share with my fellow DevRel people to help you see it from the event organiser’s perspective.

The late-joiner

If you show up late to an event you’re speaking at, you miss the context. At best, it can make the speaker look dumb and in most cases it makes them look as though they simply don’t care.

For example, at one event I ran, there was a person who spoke about DX platforms. During their talk the introduced Backstage. If they’d been at the event for the previous talk, they’d have seen that 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.

Another time, 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). Two speakers who hadn’t been there for the rest of the event got real confused when they received seemingly random standing ovations.

The leaver

If you give your talk and then immediately leave, you’re doing the audience a disservice and yourself. The talk should be just the beginning of an engagement with the audience.

There was a time when a speaker sparked several breakout sessions with his talk, but was gone long, 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

And then there are the speakers who think they’re too important to go along with how the event works. For example, they have their own way of doing things and so don’t use Slido for the Q&A, maybe they skip the tech check, or they shout instead of using a microphone. Then there are those who make organising much harder by not sending their slides beforehand or straight out ignoring questions from the organisers.

You get out of an event what you put into it. Helping event organisers 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, and so on) where you can bring your content.

Similarly, you could be backup speaker. All speakers making it to the event, in the current turmoil, is rather rare. 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, or a conference app? Make sure you’re registered and that you’ve filled out your profile as that helps you to be discoverable and approachable
  • Make the most of other opportunities: the 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.

A version of this article was originally published at on dev.to.

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