Conference organisers: a point for your consideration.

I had the great fortune to attend XOXO last week (which is another post I’ll try and get done before the same event next year or something) and people were chatting about how nice it was to be at a conference with a good range of female speakers. I was having a conversation of this ilk with Tom Coates and he mentioned how he had tried to help other conferences pull in female speakers, but the ones they asked often said no – leading to unfair criticism when there was an all-male line-up. It wasn’t that these organisers hadn’t gone looking but that these ladies just didn’t say yes when asked. I said casually that this was probably because something about the offer didn’t seem right, that not enough information was offered upfront. Tom asked me what I meant and I told him, and then he asked me to write it down and show people as it was something that had never crossed his mind and so, perhaps, hadn’t crossed others either. So here we go:

When you ask me to come speak and I don’t really know you and/or your event, I want to know the usual stuff like type of event/what you want from me/date/ fee BUT I also want to know:

1) Location of event AND location of where you are putting me up.

The questions in my head are: Are they near public transport lines and how safe is it for me to travel with stuff between airport/station and hotel? Are they close together? Will I need to walk with heavy stuff in between them(especially if I’m doing a workshop)? Is the after party in a different part of town and will I be able to get cab? Is there a small shopping/eating area within walkable distance?

2) What are your policies if I have to pull out?

Women are statistically more likely to be primary carers for dependents – either children or elderly parents, often one and then the other. If my kid gets a cold my husband can take care of him but if he should get taken to hospital I will want to be with him. This shouldn’t put you off asking me (I’ve never had to pull out of an event yet) but you should consider what your backup plan might be. If you don’t have one, or you seem at all skeezy about this, it puts me off because I don’t want to piss you off if something does happen.

3) What have you organised for speakers?

Knowing you have arranged for me to meet some people and get to see a little of your town makes me feel like you want me there, and that you are looking out for me. A speakers’ dinner so I can meet some folks (doesn’t need to be fancy) and some suggestion of places to go means I won’t feel like the only safe and sensible thing for me to do is to eat at the hotel and stay in my room. I don’t know that your city is fine to walk round apart from any area with East in the name, so I really appreciate guidance.

4)Who else is going?

Even if I’m the only woman speaking, do you have others involved with organising and volunteering? Is there someone I can chat to at a speakers dinner if stuff gets a bit Sports! or Linux! or Snazzy Ties!, or if someone a bit creepy comes and bothers me at the after party (it happens, sadly). My experience is the more balanced the attendance of social events, the less likely the conversation skews one way or anyone gets creepy too. And, regardless of gender, who else is speaking or attending that I know? I’m much more likely to say yes, if I know there will be a couple of friendly faces.

Basically, I’m working out if I’m going to be sat in a small poky hotel near a conference centre two miles outside the nearest town for three nights, or trapped in a swanky hotel in a financial district of a city that shuts down at weekends having flown in Saturday morning for something starting Monday, or if I’ll end up wandering alone round a town centre at chucking out time, carrying my heels, trying to get a cab to get back from an after party that all the young, hip things are still enjoying while I have to leave at 7am to get back to my family – all of which have happened to me before.

It’s a sad but true fact, as a woman I am more vulnerable and have to weigh up the risks and rewards of exploring new areas when traveling alone. I don’t believe there is a rapist hanging around every street corner of every town but I do believe there is one around some corners, and sadly you don’t know which ones. Knowing that organisers have considered the location of their accommodation, planned some things for me to do and spent the time finding the number for a reliable cab firm for me to use, means I am much more likely to say yes if you ask me to speak.


Getcha Content Strategy Workshop here, cheap as chips!

Ridiculously small fee of £300 to have me present a day long content strategy workshop at your company, good for the next 12 months. Very limited numbers. email or at-reply me @RellyAB to get booking details.

As many of you lovely people know, I am a freelance Content Strategy consultant. I specialise in teaching CS skills and helping companies use these as part of their web strategy, especially as part of a multidisciplinary approach. I think it’s pretty important that every company with a web presence has an opportunity to make content creation into something that makes them money as opposed to simply costs them money. The good news is that it’s pretty easy to do that too, once you see how it works. With that in mind, I’ve created a workshop that I can take in-house to organizations and get everyone together to work out what they need to be doing and when. I am going to ‘soft-launch’ this via Twitter and my blog, with an introductory price so I can make some bookings and, quite literally, get this show on the road.

Here’s the deal:

I will come to your company and do a day long workshop with you and your team – web team, marketing team, director of happiness – whoever you think should hear more about the why, how and when of making great web content. I’ve done this workshop around a dozen times in varying formats, for Higher Education, non-profits, huge organizations and small start-ups, but I will also take plenty of instructions on how to target it to your needs. We will cover research, planning, creating, governance and selling content internally. To give you an idea of what we might do, I would expect to cover some research work around user personas and design personas, and feeding those into useful tools for content planning such as scenarios and content mapping. Next would be planning content – so taking those scenarios and content requirements and turning them into page tables and tone of voice/style guides, and talking about how these slot into the creation process. I’d cover editorial calendars and how the content touches everything from big articles to microcopy like error messages. We’d then have a go creating an article while looking at story shapes that work well to deliver content online, before moving onto various ways to test content and measure effectiveness from all kinds of key performance indicators. Finally, I’d finish up with selling these skills and their results to clients (and/or colleagues). It’s a lot to fit in but I do make sure I leave everyone with a good bundle of resources to follow up on.
Also, it’s fun – and it involves cutting and sticking. You can have up to 25 people in one session.

And the fee for this wondrous content strategy smorgasbord of delights? A paltry £300 (+VAT). This is, in all sincerity, A STEAL. And VERY, VERY LIMITED in number and time. You won’t have to take your socks off to count them all. You might not even have to take off your other glove.

Cost and booking:

You agree to pay my travel and a hotel for the night (two nights if you aren’t in the UK) plus my fee for the workshop of £300 (+VAT). If you don’t have a date in mind, or you need time to organize your team, it’s cool. I will send you a shiny booking confirmation and honour any booking for within the next 12 months. I will try and do whatever date you want, outside of any travel commitments I already have. Best thing is to give me a choice of three dates and we can come to an agreement from there.
To book, you will need to be able to pay in full for the workshop by paypal or bank transfer. This is non-refundable. Email me at or send me an at-reply on Twitter (I’m @RellyAB) to let me know you want to book, and I’ll send you the paypal/bank transfer details.

I am also happy for groups of freelancers or meet-up groups clubbing together to share the workshop, but you are responsible for finding a venue (and a projector, or I have to draw my slides and my stick men always look like they’ve had a can too many of Special Brew). Numbers are limited to 25, which is £12 each for the workshop (plus my travel/venue/VAT). The very organized and entrepreneurial amongst you may even be able to charge a fee that raises money for your group.

I don’t expect this to be a long-term deal because I like things like paying bills and eating more than economy beans BUT I do want to get this going, so it seems a good start to offer this to my Twitter and blog friends (and their friends too, of course).

Looking forward to meeting bunches more of you in person!


Obligatory trumpet blowing

Some comments about Relly’s online classes:

“Totally amazing and incredibly useful!” – Jo Lankester

“I’d absolutely recommend @RellyAB‘s course. It’s been so useful to me. I’m really delighted.” – Pam McCormac

“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed Relly’s class and would definitely recommend it to others! It’s been very useful.” – Phil Matthews

… and about her conference presentations:

“…This is the best presentation I’ve seen in ages.” – Mark Boulton

“Someone give @RellyAB her own conference – and then a medal. Superb.” – Owen Gregory

“@RellyAB was a highlight this year – she is a fantastic speaker. Loads of laughs and plenty real points made too.” – Rachel Andrew

“Truly the best presentation of the conference [Web Directions South]” – James Fehon