This year I had the honor of speaking at VueConf US 2022 and I thought I would share my experience. Some of this will cover my personal process, some will look at VueConf specifically, and some will be about conference at large. I hope you enjoy.
Call For Papers
Let’s start at the beginning, as that’s a good place to start. As soon as they announced the Call for Papers (CFPs), I submitted my talks. I had submitted a few, and the one they selected was called, “Maintainable & Resilient Projects Through Internal UI Libraries“.
(Side note: I submitted other talks that I thought had a better chance, but they selected this one, which turned out really well)
The submission process used a Google Form. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I’ve noticed that some other conferences use Sessionize or PaperCall which I prefer because you can have an account with your details that prefills the forms. With the Google Form, I had to re-type a lot of the same data each time (my life is so hard).
It’s not a huge deal, but I mention it in case you’re a conference organizer. Those dedicated platforms are pretty sweet.
After several weeks, maybe a month, I got the email that I’d been selected. Yay! That gave me plenty of time to prepare. By comparison, I gave a lightning talk at the 2019 conference, but did not know until the day before that I was selected. That was dreadful because I had to stay up super late that night putting slides together because I had just assumed that I wasn’t selected. It sounded like the same thing happened this year to some of the lightning talks.
I’m sure there was a reason for it, but I think it’s better for everyone if folks know ahead of time whether they are selected or not. It gives speakers more time to prepare which is also better for the audience, and anyone that isn’t selected also isn’t waiting in the dark.
If you’re thinking about speaking at a conference, here’s my advice:
- Submit several talks. You’re not limited to just one.
- Find out who the organizers are and connect. They don’t only pick their friends, but it doesn’t hurt if they recognize you.
- Try giving your talks ahead of time at meetups. It’ll get nerves out, work our kinks, and gets you some good feedback.
- Make your talk stand out. Probably the most important thing, you need to take time to create a title, pitch, and description that will get the attention of the organizers AND the audience. Communicate the value succinctly.
- Do it! It’s a great way to connect with people and potential future employers.
After being selected came the matter of convincing my boss that our company should sponsor my trip.
Convincing Your Boss
Some conferences will actually cover flights, accommodations, and even pay speakers. I think it’s far more common to cover all the expenses yourself, minus the entry. This means either paying for everything out of pocket, or having your company sponsor your trip (hell yeah!).
Convincing your company to send you to a conference can be tricky because it has to be worth it to them. That’s not always easy to prove. If you’re presenting, it’s better because that could provide an opportunity to promote the company or engage with your community.
Obviously this is going to vary greatly based on your company, their budget, the nature of your role, your team, and your workload. As a developer advocate, it’s a lot more normal for me to go to conferences now, but there’s a greater expectation for me to speak, run a booth, host some sort of gathering, and create content (ahem).
Some companies are really good about conference policies, others not so much. One cool thing about VueConf does that’s really cool is provide folks with a “convince your boss” template that you can copy and fill out with your own details.
I didn’t use the template, but they do cover some things that I recommend. In particular, doing the research ahead of time for how much it’s going to cost (tickets, flight, accommodation, meals, other travel, etc.) is a good idea.
Something else that helps is arranging to create content or a presentation that you can bring back to your organization. That can help spread your knowledge around and get more value for your employer.
Writing the dang thing
Once you know for sure that you’re going, you have to also prepare your talk. If you’ve never written a presentation before, they’re a LOT of work.
I don’t even want to tell you how much time went into this presentation in case my boss reads this post (only kind of joking). That’s another unspoken cost of sending someone.
You have to come up with a main concept, write an outline, write the script, find funny GIFs, come up with a new but more relevant title and hope no one notices, start wondering why they even picked you because it’s not that good of subject after all, consider calling out sick, IMPOSTER SYNDROME, decide you don’t care what people think and do it anyway because even if you fail you can always be a goat farmer, practice the talk, realize it’s way too long, cut out half of the work you’ve already done, practice again, halve it again, and this all has to happen the night before your talk because you procrastinated and even if you don’t you’ll still be fiddling with your slides up until 5 minutes before you have to give your talk.
It’s exhausting (but worth it).
If your curious about my process for writing a talk, I’ve been working on it for a while now, and have come up with this little system:
- Start the content as a blog post.
- Create a high level outline.
- Shift concepts around into an order that works.
- Fill in the gaps for a rough draft.
- Copy the content into a markdown file.
- Use in Slidev (awesome project by Anthony Fu).
- Come up with a story arch to make the content a little more interesting.
- Fill in text.
- Fill in helper graphics (code, charts, img, gifs)
- Create speaker notes.
- Practice reading through.
- Practice reading through with timer.
- Practice speaking through.
- Practice speaking through with timer (camera optional).
- Practice speaking it to Nugget.
I like this approach because in the end, I have a nice presentation as well as an rough draft for a blog post I can continue with later on. And Slidev is great because I can keep one main theme an reuse it for most of my presentations.
The convention took place in June at the Fort Lauderdale Convention Center in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The weather was wild.
The venue was nice, but I found myself wondering if the destination was the best choice. June is Pride month, and Florida has been experiencing some political turbulence in recent history around gay rights. The result was tangible.
On one side, there were billboards saying “it’s OK to say gay”, in opposition to the recent “don’t say gay” bill. On the other side, I had some random guy at an after-conference event tap me on the shoulder to show me how his Uber ride was rainbow colored, then made a big deal about it saying he should cancel it. It was awkward.
I have so many friends in the LGBTQ community, and it sucks to think that some of my friends may have skipped this conference out of fear. Or worse, that some of my friends that attended felt unwelcome or unsafe.
Conferences are great, and everyone that attends should feel safe and welcome, regardless or looks, gender, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, etc.
I’m not calling out the VueConf organizers specifically here, because I really don’t know everything that went into that decision or how far back it was made, but I hope any organizers reading this will take these sorts of things into consideration for future events. Conferences can bring a lot of revenue to a city, and being deliberate about the choice is a way to show what we want to support.
Ok, I’ll get off my soap box now.
I arrived on the first day to help Jessica Sachs give her workshop, “Stress-free Testing for Vue 3” (she’s great and you should take her workshop some time). The check in process was smooth, and one unique thing they had was a nice color-coded sticker system to communicate peoples preferred greeting: wave, hand-shake/fist-bump, hug. So you could stick it to your name tag to let other folks know your preference.
There wasn’t much mention around COVID protocols, but it’s worth mentioning in case any of you are concerned about it. There was around 10 of us wearing masks, which I think goes for most events. It’s mostly up to individuals, so if you’re still uncomfortable in large groups, it’s probably good to stick to the virtual events. I did hear of someone testing positive.
Ok, on to some more fun stuff; the people. This is one of my favorite parts of events, you get to meet so many great folks, and Vue folks are among the best!
I was happy to see a better diversity of people than in the past. Like most tech things, it was still mostly men from the same few majority groups, but the gap didn’t feel as stark as past events.
It felt like a larger distribution of people across the different race, gender, age, and experience spectrums. It was also represented in the speakers. It’s working, people, more colors for our kick-ass rainbow!
Some notes on meeting people:
- Dont hang out with the same people. It’s easy to fall into chatting with the same people you know, but it’s fun to meet new people and you never know what you’ll learn.
- People want to meet you. Some people have a harder time initiating a conversation, but are still eager to participate. Keep an eye out for folks and invite them in.
- Follow the pacman rule. If you find yourself in a circle of people chatting, always leave a gap for someone to step into. So your circle should look more like a pacman.
- Unless you need to recharge, during meals, sit at tables with people you don’t know and strike up a conversation. It’s great to see the variety of folks around you.
I don’t spend a lot of time at the vendor booths, but they are super important for supporting events, and it’s a good place to see who’s taking care of your community. For that reason, I always like to swing by and talk to each vendor at least a little bit.
One thing I would really love to see from vendors is less wasteful swag. There’s always so much stuff they give away for free that I’m sure just ends up in waste bins.
Some swag is super effective and a great way to get a brand name out there, but less garbage would also be awesome :)
I thought the talks were well-selected, but they definitely leaned more very heavily towards testing. I didn’t mind that because each testing talk brought it’s own perspective, and it’s an important subject.
Not every talk was specific to Vue, which I always appreciate. It’s cool to see a broad range of talks in topic and target experience level. There was also a good range of talks from broad concepts to very specific, personal experiences.
This year I got to experience a workshop as well (as an assistant). I really liked the experience because workshops give you much more time on a single topic to really dive deep and get your hands dirty. And there’s way more opportunity for one-on-one time between attendees and instructors.
HOT TIP: if you know someone putting on a workshop, ask them if they need any help. It got me into a workshop for free, got my friend some extra help, and it got the attendees more individual attention. Triple-win!
VueConf follows a single-track system which means every single talk happens in order, in the same room. This is different than other conferences that do the multi-track approach where there are multiple tracks running simultaneously, with a more dedicated focus.
They each have their pros and cons:
- Single-track: You know where to go for each talk. You never have to choose between two talks. There’s plenty of opportunity to follow the “hallway track” and just chat with folks. You inherently get a little bit of everything.
- Multi-track: There’s usually way more content to choose from. There’s more content for each specific topic. It’s less likely to have time slots with nothing that interests you.
I don’t know if I have a preference, but something I thought about.
As mentioned above, one of the presentations was done by yours truly. It was a lot of fun. And despite the overwhelming feeling of impostor syndrome, I felt like I did pretty well. There were a few points that I could have improved upon or just missed, but I don’t think it showed on stage. Some folks even told me it was their favorite talk.
That was really nice…( ˘ ³˘)♥︎♥︎♥(°◡°♡)
It’s published on Vue Mastery now. You can find it here: https://www.vuemastery.com/conferences/vueconf-us-2022/maintainable-and-resilient-projects-through-internal-ui-libraries/
Would love to hear what you think.
One last little tip/trick I might start doing is to ask organizers if I can give my talk on the first day. I’d rather get it out of the way so I can actually sleep at night.
In case you’ve never been to an in-person conference, you should know that post-conference events (parties) are going on probably every night. And it’s great! Most of the time it’s around grabbing drinks at a bar, but some conferences focus more on networking events.
At VueConf this year, I went to a few events.
- The first night, after the workshops, there wasn’t much because it was technically still before the conference. It was a great chance to catch up with Bart Ledoux.
- The second night there was no official event because the organizers were hosting the speaker dinner. This consisted of drinks at the hotel pool beforehand, some swimming, and then walking over to a Thai restaurant with amazing Massaman curry. I also got Alex Kyriakidis his first Thai tea.
- The last night of the conference was spent once again at the hotel pool for swim and drinks, then there was a hosted happy hour with some food and drinks, and after everything, we found a karaoke bar for some songs and drinks (there was some drama finding a place, but in true VueConf fashion, we found it).
In case it wasn’t obvious, a lot of the external events revolve around drinks and/or bars. Which is fine for me because I don’t mind a few drinks and can keep myself under control. However, I wish there were more events that focused less around alcohol. It would be more inclusive for folks that prefer not to drink.
Anyway, regardless of the venue/activity, I think it’s worth going to as many extra events as you can. They’re usually a lot of fun, and are a great way to connect with folks, both professionally and to make new friends. There’s so much value there.
Two tips, though:
- Don’t forget to bring your badge to after parties (learned that one the hard way).
- Try not to get trashed. Some folks did, and it’s a bad look for you and possibly your employer (learned that the easy way).
Conferences are great, and VueConf was no exception. If you haven’t been to a conference, you should go. If you’ve been to a conference, you should go again. I find they are a good way to recharge my battery.
From this lineup, my favorite talk was probably “How we migrated our HUGE app to Vue 3” by Alex Van Liew. It was very informative from hands-on experience, but it also wasn’t so subjective that it wasn’t useful. Alex did a great job putting it together and delivering it (and I think he said it was his first talk ever).
One last minute tip for the whole event. Be active on Twitter before, during, and after. Put the conference name in your Twitter name. Use whatever hashtag is associated. It makes it way easier to find other folks. And if you’re not already on Twitter, you should get on it because everyone uses Twitter (right Adam?).
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Originally published on austingil.com.