Lady Conference Speaker: Speaker Bios

This is, of course, intended to help all potential speakers, but it’s important to me to make sure that my speaking advice is explicitly targeted to women and other under-represented speakers.

The point of a speaker biography is to give people a little context for your talk. It doesn’t need to be long or elaborate, but it does need to tell people why they should listen to you.

So! You need to write a speaker bio. And you’ve been trying to do it for 3 hours now, and you’ve come up with “Me make smart ideas and eat cookies, which is for C”. Somehow you don’t feel like that will meet the goals of the conference or meetup you’re hoping to impress. But how do you do better?

A pink-haired white woman stares off into the upper distance. She is wearing dark glasses and bright lipstick and a whimsical expression

Collective action

The easiest way I’ve ever found to write a biography or anything where nice things should get said about me is to get together with several friends and write them for each other. It’s much easier to say nice things about our friends than ourselves, and they’ll remember things as a group that we forget as ourselves. So let me encourage you to make a party of it. A little cookie dough, a heartening viewing of Legally Blonde, and you’ll find it much less stressful.

The formula

  • Who are you?
  • Why is this something you can speak about?
  • What’s something fun that people can remember about you?

Here’s what I’m using for mine right now:

Heidi is a developer advocate with LaunchDarkly. She delights in working at the intersection of usability, risk reduction, and cutting-edge technology. One of her favorite hobbies is talking to developers about things they already knew but had never thought of that way before. She sews all her conference dresses so that she’s sure there is a pocket for the mic.

Yeah, they’re almost all written in the third person. It’s the standard.

So as you can see, I introduce who I am and who I work for. I have a sentence about what I’m interested in and why I’m probably giving this talk. My third sentence is sort of optional, but does make people ask me what I mean. The last sentence is both true and quirky.

Here’s another example:

An orange and white cat with an orange mustache snuggles into a human hand

Beepulon is a small orange katten just under a year old. He is an expert in making strange un-catlike noises, and also loud sniffing noises. When he is not meeping, prrbping, or snorfling, he enjoys breaking all the rules by standing on the table.

If you went to a session with someone who had this bio, I bet you would not be surprised to hear weird noises and get orange fur on you.

Here are some ideas for what you can put in your sentences.

First sentence

  • Your name (and pronouns, if you wish)
  • Your employer if they are paying for you to be there (if not, consider if they deserve free advertising)
  • Your job title or community standing

Second sentence

  • Your expertise or interests
  • Something that relates to your talk subject
  • Why you’re gonna be great at this

Third sentence

  • Something personal, but nothing embarrassing or that you don’t want to hear about from others
  • Something cute or funny
  • A twist or unique take on your topic

Conclusion

A speaker bio doesn’t exist to tell us everything about you and your experience, just to give us a hint about you and your presentation. It’s stressful to say nice things about yourself sometimes, but if you fill in the blanks, it’s probably going to be a little easier. Write with friends!

Lady Conference Speaker: 14 Travel Tips

I was talking to a fellow ladyish conference speaker, and I reeled off a list of my travel tips as they pertain to people who are working for small/nimble enough companies that you don’t have to book through The Corporate Site.

An array of bags and the things they contained, including laptop, cords, stickers, portable keyboard, medicine, neck pillow.

Last year’s conference travel assortment. I’ve upgraded my bag since then.

  1. Remember that your time is usually more valuable than the amount you can save by optimizing flights. Before you spend 4 hours trying to save $100 and adding a 3 hour layover to your flight, consider your hourly rate.
  2. Pick an airline you can deal with, stop looking at others. I use Delta because I live in a Delta hub.
  3. Pick 2 hotels chains with a variety of price point options. I use Hilton and Marriott, but Quality or Best Western or anything similar will work.
  4. Be reasonable about your expenses, but not chintzy. This is not human travel, it is business travel. The value of business travel is that you arrive in a place capable of interacting with humans.
  5. Pack what you need for each day in a roll so you don’t have to spend any brain resources when you get there.
  6. Where you are going, they sell most things. You can solve a lot if you have underpants and a bra and a company t-shirt.
  7. You’re probably not going outside as much as you would as a human traveller. You don’t need an umbrella, or sunscreen. Travel the world, visit exotic conference centers.
  8. Bring a hoodie, because of the patriarchal thermostat hegemony.
  9. Upgrading to Comfort+ is pretty cheap for the amount of unfrazzling it earns you.
  10. You will always look sharper than the dudes, by virtue of your awesome haircut, ride on that.
  11. But if you don’t feel confident, mascara+lipstick is pretty much all people actually use to read “professional lady makeup”.
  12. Assemble a small travel kit of meds – most of us on the road a lot have a “sinuses are the devil” section and a “let’s not talk about my digestion” section.
  13. There are a lot of things you can solve by money that you couldn’t easily fix when you were traveling on your own, such as: Too Much Walking, Lost Luggage, Forgot Charger, Missed Flight, etc. Don’t be rude about using company resources to fix personal problems, but ask my boss how many cities he’s bought a Macbook charger in. It’s better to have it than to not be useful.
  14. Your average mid-range hotel and above (Not Super 8, yes Garden Court) has a wide variety of forgotten chargers you can borrow. Also they will bring you for a small fee or free a bunch of useful forgotten or unluggable items, like toothbrushes, razors, and full size humidifiers.

This is not human travel, it is business travel. The value of business travel is that you arrive in a place capable of interacting with humans.

There are a lot of other tips I have, but those seem like the most salient. Just keep in mind that you are worth shipping across the country carefully because you are a precious and hard-to-replace part of the company, and they want you to arrive undamaged, functional, and able to do good work.

Bonus tip: Pick a type of tourist attraction you like to see and look for it in cities you go to, if you have time. I’m fond of botanical gardens.

Spiky green glass sculptures that echo the shapes of desert plants.

Glass and biology at the Phoenix Botanical Gardens