Global Diversity CFP Day Recap (Philly edition)

This past Saturday, Sarah Gray and I organized the Philly edition of the first Global Diversity CFP Day. Sharing some post-event thoughts.

Why do it?

It’s not something I oft say publicly, but I don’t frequently do “diversity work” anymore. For years, I volunteered and organized around efforts to get more women into Python and Ruby, to name a couple, largely because I have benefited significantly from attending those events myself.

I’ve also in the last couple of years taken some time away from organizing. Some recent, significant life changes have helped return some of my energy, so when Karin Wolok asked if I was interested in helping organize GDCFPDay (seriously, founders, consider the name, it’s really hard to express), it seemed really possible. And then Karin stepped down to focus on other obligations, and Sarah stepped up to co-organize 😀

But aside from the personal reasons why, the general reasons why are (to me) really obvious — here’s a topic myself and a fair amount of my network are knowledgeable about (speaking at events), and here’s an opportunity to encourage people from underrepresented backgrounds to try it out. There’s a cool global effort around it. Might as well organize the Philly edition!

What did you do?

I hope to read recaps from other organizers, because other workshops apparently also did a modified schedule. There was an at-large schedule you can see here, where the day goes from 10am to 4pm. That’s a long workshop day, and Sarah and I could only commit from 10-2pm, and it seemed much more manageable.

I’ve opened the schedule we used so you can see it. We cut out almost all of the videos, and replaced the CFP Advice video with a live panel with our mentors, which felt engaging to me, and I would recommend.

Additionally, instead of “speaking with attendees to figure out what to talk about,” I ran an idea generation workshop first run/taught to me by Jess Ivins, and that exercise got very positive reviews from participants, because it helps them realize how many things they might be able to speak about. If there are requests, I can see if Jess or I can write out instructions for it, because I’ve ran it a few times and it works!

For location, we hosted at IndyHall, because as a member I’m able to use the space in that way, and in addition, GDCFPDay asked many questions about accessibility of space, and IndyHall is pretty darn accessible (public transit is do-able, gender neutral bathrooms are available, nursing room, elevators, all that good stuff).

What could’ve been better

In the feedback, attendees wished they knew more about the CFP process itself. I thought we would cover this sort of thing in the panel, but I think it would be worth a lightning talk. Perhaps the CFP Advice video in the global schedule covered it, I’m honestly not sure 🙂 But I think our participants could’ve benefited from us showing a literal CFP form, etc. so they could see what it actually looks like to submit to one.

Another obvious suggestion from attendees is that I should’ve shared the schedule with them ahead of time. Organizers and mentors had it, but letting attendees know what to expect would’ve been a good idea.

Another thing that happened is that as the event was ending and “share your idea” came up, our attendees quietly started having places to be! (if you missed that, it means they started bailing because they were worried about sharing out). I would suggest maybe having sign up slots for people to opt-in to sharing, or doing something so that sharing isn’t the last thing that happens. I also blame this for one of the reasons I only got a few responses to our feedback form.

I also would’ve liked more attendees, of course. We had a <50% show rate, which is expected for meetups in general, and that left us with ~10 attendees. What’s good is that it meant attendees got lots of attention from our wonderful mentors. It is what it is, but I wish more people could’ve benefited from the event.

Feedback

Speaking of feedback, I shared some of what the attendees said could be better (process overview, schedule sharing), but they also had some nice things to say:

I thought it went well. Liked the casual setting and open communication.

And my favorite response to “What’s something you learned?”:

it’s okay to be authentic and bold

Conclusion

For a first event in this global effort, organizing a Saturday event in Philly in winter (that’s tech event organizing on hard mode, if you aren’t familiar with it, plus we’re talking about a Saturday event on Super Bowl weekend), I think it went really well!

Big thanks to Promptworks for sponsoring lunch, to all of our mentors (Jenn, Amber [who also helped organize!], Maurício, Jearvon, Mjumbe) and of course to our attendees, whom I hope to see on stages this year. As for timing, should this event happen again, I feel like February/beginning of the year works well to encourage people to make 2018 plans, even if winter is hard mode.

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