DrupalCon Chicago 2011 Speaker FAQ

This FAQ is a guide for those interested in presenting sessions at DrupalCon Chicago 2011. It is intended to provide potential speakers with a understanding of what will be expected of this year’s speakers, as well as an overview of the session selection and curation process. We ask that anyone interested in presenting read this FAQ to ensure that they fully understand the responsibilities that come with speaking at DrupalCon Chicago. This document will continue to be updated as the session schedule is finalized, so please check back often!

What’s the process and timeline for session selection?
Session selection and programming at DrupalCon Chicago is being handled a little differently than it has at past DrupalCons. This is being done to ensure the highest quality content, provide maximum support to speakers from both inside and outside of the Drupal community, and enable prospective attendees to find out who will be speaking on what topics as early possible.

The first set of speakers were invited to submit sessions by track chairs. These sessions were announced on November 2, the day that public session submissions opened. The period for session submissions will close on December 10, and public voting for sessions will open immediately afterward. Session voting will close on December 24, and the full list of selected sessions will be announced on December 31. The final schedule for DrupalCon Chicago will be announced in mid-January.

Who will be making decisions about which sessions get picked and which don’t?
Sessions for each track will be curated by a 2-4 person committee led by a single chair. These track chairs will work in coordination with each other as well as the overall programming chairs (Greg Dunlap and Matt Farina) and the DrupalCon Chicago team leadership to make the final decisions regarding session selection and scheduling.

The track chairs for DrupalCon Chicago are:

  • Coder: Robin Barre, Larry Garfield
  • Drupal Implementation and Configuration: Allie Micka
  • Design and UX: Todd Ross Nienkerk
  • Theming: John Albin Wilkins
  • Business and Strategy: George DeMet
  • Drupal Community: Greg Dunlap

What about voting? Does that count for anything?
Absolutely! DrupalCon is all about the community, and we believe that the community’s voice forms an essential part of session selection. While votes will not be used as the sole or deciding criteria for session selection, they will be taken into account by the track chairs when making their decisions.

To ensure that all session proposals are treated fairly and equally, we’ll be treating public voting as follows:

  • Voting will not begin until all sessions have been submitted.
  • Voting will take the form of five-star ratings, instead of the “+1” format used at previous DrupalCons. Results will remain public throughout the voting process.
  • Only registered attendees will be able to vote for sessions.
  • Each attendee will only be able to vote once for a given session.

Because some sessions will have already been announced before the public session submission and voting period begins, lesser-known speakers won't have to compete for votes against more well-known members of the community.

In addition to the public voting process, track chairs will also be taking into account attendee feedback and speaker ratings for speakers who presented at DrupalCon San Francisco and/or DrupalCon Copenhagen when making session selections.

Do I get paid or compensated for presenting at DrupalCon?
Speaking at DrupalCon is a great way to gain exposure to a diverse audience of engaged Web professionals from dozens of countries around the world. As DrupalCon sessions are recorded and made available online after the conference, the potential reach of your session is nearly unlimited. You'll have the opportunity to publicize your session in the months and weeks leading up to DrupalCon with special graphics that you can put on your website to let others know that you're speaking at DrupalCon.

Speakers at DrupalCon Chicago will receive $100 off the lowest ticket price for the conference and get a special name badge that entitles them to free admission to a speaker's reception with dinner and drinks on the evening of March 7 as well as the opening night after-party on March 8. Speakers whose ticket is provided as part of a sponsor package will be able to have the $100 discount applied toward DrupalCon scholarships.

If you are submitting a session, you should wait to purchase a ticket to DrupalCon until all sessions have been finalized at the end of December. We will be reaching out to everyone who has submitted a session to let them know if they have been accepted or not before the public announcement is made on December 31. If you'd like to reserve your hotel room in the Drupal Tower before that date, you can do so using the Sheraton's dedicated DrupalCon reservation site: http://www.starwoodmeeting.com/Book/DrupalCon2011

In addition to picking up their badges in a dedicated line, they will have access to the Green Room, a quiet place for presenters to go over their slides and make final preparations before the start of their session. The Green Room will be stocked with refreshments and is located adjacent to the restrooms. All participants in a panel session will receive these benefits.

What should I keep in mind when submitting a session for DrupalCon Chicago?
While we understand that it’s not always possible to know exactly what you’ll be talking about months in advance of a conference presentation, especially when dealing with fast-moving technologies like Drupal, we do ask that speakers think carefully about their intended audience and what they want attendees to take away from their session when formulating their proposals.

The best panels and presentations are the ones where the presenter devotes a significant amount of time to the process of developing their session. You should be prepared to spend a significant amount of time in January and February preparing for your session (and communicating with any co-presenters).

In order to give speakers the ability to focus on developing the highest quality sessions possible, we will be limiting the number of sessions that any single speaker can participate in to no more than one solo presentation and one panel presentation (if a speaker does not present a solo session, he or she may participate in up to two panel presentations). Panels will be limited to no more than three participants plus a moderator. Dual sessions (those with two presenters) are considered panels.

When making your submission, be sure to identify a single point of contact for your session. If you end up not being able to attend, we may cancel your session and replace it with another, even if you are able to find a substitute presenter.

You may be asked if you are willing to work together and/or combine your session with another presenter.

We may check in with you in the weeks leading up to the conference to make sure that your session preparation is going well and you have everything you need.

You will be asked to sign an agreement if your session is selected for DrupalCon. This agreement will give the conference the right to use your name and image in DrupalCon promotional material (such as the conference website and printed program) and provide the conference with a Creative Commons license to any recordings made of your session so they can be distributed on places like archive.org. To view a sample copy of the agreement, click here.

If your session is selected for DrupalCon, you will be asked to check in at the Green Room at least a half-hour before your session. The Green Room is a special speakers-only room that provides a place for presenters to go over their slides and make any final preparations before the start of their session. The Green Room will be stocked with refreshments and is located adjacent to the restrooms.

You will need to provide your own laptop for your presentation. Presenters will be provided with projector specifications and slide templates in a variety of commonly-used formats. Even if you do not use the provided templates, presenters are asked to use special opening and closing slides to assist in the creation of session videos and enable audiences to submit feedback.

What are the expectations around dress code and language?
There is no established dress code at DrupalCon, and most attendees tend to wear either causal or business causal attire. Speakers should think about their audience when deciding what to wear and dress appropriately. For example, introductory-level session presenters should keep in mind that they are making a first impression on people new to the Drupal community and present themselves accordingly.

Likewise, presenters should keep in mind that DrupalCon is an international event that attracts diverse people from a wide variety of ethnic, cultural, and religious backgrounds. Speakers should avoid humor that occurs at the expense of any individual or group of individuals or that relies on stereotypes about culture, religion, race, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation. Speakers should strive to use professional language and avoid profanities.

What are some tips I should follow for creating slides?
A key element of your DrupalCon presentation is your electronic slide preparation. The audience will base its evaluation of you and your subject matter partly on the appearance of your images. An attractive, legible, and organized presentation will reflect positively on the content, and therefore on you. Please review these basic guidelines to ensure that your DrupalCon presentation is the best it can possibly be:

Find out how much time is allowed for your presentation. Plan your talk and the number of slides to allow for a relaxed pace. Think of what you would change if the presentation had to be shortened or lengthened. Practice your talk before the conference. Time yourself. Force yourself to slow down a little. A rushed presentation will create more stress for you and won't be compelling.

The session rooms at DrupalCon are large, and your presentation must be legible from the back row. If you can stand two meters away from your computer's monitor and easily read your slides, your text is large enough. To achieve this, limit each slide to eight lines of text or less and limit each line of text to 30 characters or less. Use a bold typeface, no smaller than 28 points, with generous line spacing.

Use key words, so that your slides will be quick and easy to read. You want the audience to hear your presentation, while the slides accentuate the points to remember. Use standard fonts. That way your presentation will be truly portable. Incorporate only the essential parts of a diagram and simplify whenever possible. While it is tempting to include detail for the sake of accuracy, too much will make the slide difficult to read and become a distraction. Break up complex diagrams into sections if you can, so that each section can be made larger and therefore more legible.

Avoid the use of ALL CAPITAL letters. Words written in ALL CAPS are harder to read and take up more space on the screen. Use bold face and italics for emphasis, or use a bright color such as yellow text when normal body text is white. Underlined text is not recommended.

Color and Contrast
Make good use of color and contrast. Dark backgrounds tend to be easier to view, especially with light text and graphics. Good background color choices are black, blue, maroon, or gradient dark colors. Good text colors are white or yellow. If you use a light background, use black or very dark text and graphics.

Maintain consistency throughout your slides. Using the same background color, text size, text color, and uniform fonts throughout all the slides makes it easier for the audience to follow the flow of your ideas.

What are some good resources for preparing my presentation?
We highly recommend the book slide:ology: The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations by Nancy Duarte, which provides practical advice on how to create presentations that effectively communicate your message.

Emma Jane Hogbin has given pre-conference workshops on presentation techniques for DrupalCon speakers. You can view the video of her 2009 workshop at: http://dc2009.drupalcon.org/session/presenting-you-workshop

You can view a video of Lullabot’s Matt Westgate on The Art of Presenting at: http://www.lullabot.com/blog/art-presenting

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