I regularly attend technical conferences in order to learn, make new contacts and generally participate in whatever community that conference represents.
Over the years, I have found that the best way to increase my chances of making new friends and contacts is to speak at the conference - people are far more likely to approach me to discuss my talk than for any other reason.
So, for me, attendance at a conference is a big deal. I'm asserting that I wish to be part of that community, that I'd like to be one of its speakers and, therefore, have my name publicly associated with the event and I'm prepared to spend time, effort and money to make that happen.
As a result, I am very careful about the nature of the events which I am willing to attend.
Here's what I look for when deciding:
In no particular order, I'm white, male, able-bodied and heterosexual. I was born and raised in the UK within a family of relative wealth and I'm happily married with children of my own.
I have absolutely no interest in attending an event full of people just like me. I especially don't want to hear from speakers who are all just like me.
I want to meet people that come from different backgrounds to me. I want to hear how their experience has shaped their view and use of technology and how that might differ from my own.
I want to see that the programmes from previous events have included a mix of speakers and not a lineup of faces that look very similar to my own. If it's a new event, I want to see how that mix is going to be achieved.
The kind of diversity I'm looking for doesn't happen by accident. It only happens when the organisers of an event put time and effort in making anyone and everyone feel welcome and comfortable. It requires organisers to think about the needs of people from many backgrounds and to take action to fulfil those needs.
I want to see evidence of that thought and action occurring. I won't need there to be a crèche, I don't require vegetarian food and I probably won't use a quiet room but I want to see those things, and more, in place and I want to see evidence that their provision is taken seriously.
I want to see some form of financial assistance scheme in place and I want to see that the process for applying is clear, prominent and confidential.
Code of Conduct
I want to see that there is one, that it's prominent on the event's website and I want to see evidence that some thought and effort has gone into producing it. I want to see how to report incidents that might breach the COC and the procedure for dealing with those reports.
I don't want to see links to COCs from other events. I don't want to see a COC that's obviously been copied from elsewhere and I don't want to have to hunt to find it.