Thursday, September 22, 2016

Blogging and Note Taking!

Hey everyone,

So I'm sure by now you've all had a chance to take a look at the schedule and see all the amazing tracks and talks that are coming up at the conference! But, you may also have realized that it's physically impossible to go to each and every talk from every track that you'd like to see.

But never fear, we've got you covered! Every year the communities committee organizes hordes of volunteers to do blogging and note taking for all the sessions! Anyone  and everyone is welcome to take part in this effort. In fact, we're still taking applications for this year!

"But what's actually involved with this?" you may ask? "Will this take time away from the conference?" Keep reading to find out =)

The Basics

Short answer, no, this really shouldn't take much time away from the conference at all. The way it works is you sign up for three or more different sessions/talks that you would like to either note take for or blog about. Then, you just attend the session and take your notes or write a post about it later. 

Since your blogging/note taking sessions should be talks that you would want to go see regardless, this is meant to impose a minimal burden on you. The specifics of both are below.

Blogging

This is more you giving an opinion on what you thought about a given session. Feel free to throw a summary of what went on as well, but also try and discuss what you thought of the session overall. And perhaps what kinds of questions came up from the audience and what they thought too! Just make sure you follow the RSS feed instructions to make sure other people can find your blog post too =)

Note Taking

Note taking is exactly what it sounds like! A factual recording/synopsis of what the talk was about and what was covered. You don't need to add your opinion in, just write down what's happening. Once the session is done, you can post your notes to the GHC Wiki for others to see! 

We aim to have a blog post and notes for each session. So if you miss anything, you can read up on what was actually covered during the talk and what someone thought about it to boot!

Is this sounding like something you'd like to be involved in? Then please apply here. Applications close September 30th!

Need more info? Click here to learn more!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

GHC Venue

Hello again!

The GHC Venue this year is the same as last year, so you can definitely get some insider info on this one! The brunt of the conference will be at the George R. Brown Convention Center along with a few events at the Toyota Center. So, what should you know before you get there?


Getting to the George R. Brown Convention Center


  1. Conference Shuttles: There will be shuttles to and from the George R. Brown Convention Center and the Toyota Center from most of the main hotels. The route map should be available soon, so keep checking here for that to appear! If you plan on using the shuttle service, be sure to plan this around the talks you want to see. You might end up hitting traffic or taking longer to pick up and drop off other attendees.
  2. Taxis/Ubers: If you have WiFi or a data plan, you can opt for an Uber. Or you can hail a cab the old-fashioned way. If you're splitting with other attendees, even better. This is a speedier way to get where you need to go, just keep cost in mind.
One thing to note if you're getting to the convention center from the an airport, remember that there are two airports closeby--the William P. Hobby Airport (HOU) and the George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH). So if you're coordinating rides from "the airport", make sure it's from the same one =) If none of this really fits the bill for you, take a gander on the GHC transportation page to get some more ideas of how to get around. 

The Actual Convention Center

To say that this venue is big is a huge (haha) understatement. It's monumental. Be prepared for a lot of lineups and a lot of map checking. There are several things you can do to navigate the convention center a little easier:
  1. Download the conference app and make use of its ability to create your own itinerary, it will have all the locations in there for you, and hopefully a handy-dandy map!
  2. There will also be maps sprinkled around the building(s) and in your conference book. 
  3. Docents and Hoppers walking around can also help you navigate. They're there to help you, so don't be afraid to ask!
So that takes care of actually getting around. But here's some other things you should keep in mind:
  1. There will be lines to get into certain talks, panels, and presentations. Keep in mind how far your next talk is. If it's a talk you really want to see, you may need to leave your current one a few minutes early in order to go line up. If the room fills up, it's full. They're not going to risk a fire hazard because you were late.
  2. Add extra time to whatever your estimate is to navigate around. The sheer amount of people that are milling around will slow you down. Make sure to account for these traffic jams in your planning.
  3. The sheer number of people attending mean that you're not always guaranteed a good seat. For example, just the plenary talks and keynotes are meant to have everyone attend, so don't fret if you're really far back. There are still screens to help out. But if you want a good seat, be prepared to get there early.
  4. The air conditioning is very strong. If you get cold easily, like I do, be sure to bring some layers with you. 
  5. There are not enough outlets. There are never enough outlets. It doesn't matter what room, talk, or hallway you're in. Be sure to charge everything beforehand and bring any other charging apparatus you will need (wall chargers, extra cables, power bars, power banks, etc.). Side note, sharing a wall outlet is a great way to meet new people at the conference =)
  6. Be patient with the WiFi. 15,000+ women using it all at once is bound to stress things!

Leaving the Convention Center

If you're flying out soon and still want to catch some talks, but have already checked out of your hotel, never fear! Make one last use of conference shuttles and shove all luggage into the coat check =) You are free to roam a few more hours before catching your plane! The center is a great place to get picked up, either by an Uber or a taxi, whichever you prefer.

Hope this helps and that you all have a great time!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The Low-down on Speaking at GHC16

So you're speaking at GHC16. What do you need to know? How can you prepare to be the best you can be? How do you calm your nerves?!

Although I wasn't lucky enough to have any submissions accepted to this year's conference, I have spoken at Grace Hopper before along with many other venues. Let me start by reassuring you that this is one of the very best places to present. I have rarely found a more wonderfully supportive audience.

Let's get some of the official stuff out of the way. As a speaker, you need to thoroughly read through everything on the speakers section of the conference website. In particular, note the quick references on the right.

I'd like to draw your attention especially to the Speaker Ready Room info. There, you'll learn about uploading your slides before your presentation, and you'll see a link to the slides template. Please take the time to design your presentation using the template right from the get-go. Trying to shoehorn an existing presentation into the template tends to look unprofessional, and not using the template at all even more so. Also make sure to leave plenty of time to upload your presentation and test it. You'll want to make sure any embedded media is actually embedded, and that your fonts and colours look ok.

The conference website also includes some tips on speaking. I'd also like to share another amazing resource that brings you weekly inspiration and advice on speaking: a newsletter called Technically Speaking. Subscribe now and you will benefit leading up to your talk, and check out the archives as well.

Finally, I have a few tips of my own:

  • Design your slides with as few words as possible. Convey the main idea through pictures and a short phrase.
  • Add speaker notes into the notes section of the slides. When practising, you can simply read the notes at first. This should make you familiar enough to be able to improvise more day-of.
  • Practice in front of colleagues at some point with enough time to receive feedback. Provide them with a written feedback form they can use to give you anonymous ideas for improvement.
  • On the day of your talk, arrive in the room early to give yourself time to calm your nerves.
  • Make sure you have access to water during the talk.
  • Before you start, take some deep breaths, maybe with your eyes closed. Think yoga breathing.
  • Invite the audience to chat with you after the talk, and stand somewhere where it's easy for the audience to actually do so.
Good luck with your talk – I'll know you'll be awesome!

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