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What separates a good event from a great event?

Recorded – watch the full episode on YouTube.

You work with the Swiss Mobile Club, who organize App Builders and Swift Alps. In your opinion, what make a great event for developers?

Carola Nitz: For me it's that we try to put attendees first. We want to make sure they're having a good time, that they get to meet everybody they want to, that they have enough opportunity for networking, and more. I think the networking part is so, so, so important. Making sure you cater to what the community needs and making sure diversity is important as well in your speaker set. And making sure everybody feels safe and knows where they have to go if something comes up, having opportunities to connect.

Paul Hudson: So quite a few things then really.

Carola Nitz: Actually, it's a lot.

Paul Hudson: You mentioned diversity in the speakers, and that’s one of the challenges our industry and particularly I think the Swift community has struggled with. How do you work towards finding a diverse range of speakers?

Carola Nitz: You definitely need to put the effort in and be aware of how many white males you have, how many female speakers you have, how many people of color you have, and so on. I need to make an effort that everybody is represented. Yes, you have a lot of people who come to you who want to speak at the conference, and you have to say “no, we really need to fill these slots with a diverse range of people and make an effort for it.” And sometimes it's hard because there's only a certain range of people that you know about, but you need to make an effort – it's important!

Paul Hudson: Do you think you being an organizer encourages more women to come forward? Particularly because you're well known – you've spoken at events previously, so they know your name.

"We really need to fill these slots with a diverse range of people and make an effort for it. And it's sometimes hard because there's only a certain range of people that you know about, but you need to make an effort."

Carola Nitz: I have to say it helps just because I know other female speakers – it makes it easier for me to reach out and talk to them. I think that that helps, and they can talk with me about whatever little issues there might be.

Paul Hudson: Presumably they know you've been there. You gave your first talk at some point, so you were thinking, "do I want to go on stage or not?" So they can ask your advice and say, “you've been there – what did you do? How did you find it? What advice do you have to help me get better? Or can you put my name forward for other places involved?”

Carola Nitz: So honestly, with women I feel like I have to encourage them more than I have to do with guys. Women are often like, "Oh, I'm not sure, I don't know if I can speak. I don't know if I know enough yet.” I've been there, and being able to speak to them and letting you know actually they can go up there and can give a talk, and people actually want to hear what they have to say and they’re just underestimating themselves. That is definitely important.

Paul Hudson: And it's powerful, too, because the only way we are genuinely going to change is by having representation in places like this. If you want to be able to look at somebody somebody and say, “yes, they look like me; yes, that could be me – I could be on that stage next year." And that's very hard to do if no one on that stage looks like you.

"A lot of work needs to be done on encouragement because I can see it when we have our call for papers – I feel like 90% are guys, or even more than 90%."

This year there was a conference announced in the UK that had more people called Chris than it had all women combined. That would have been hard to imagine five years ago never mind today, and it makes me worry how much progress we're making. I know you're trying, I know Natasha tries very very hard too, but sometimes it feels almost like we’re standing still and not making enough progress to move forward.

Carola Nitz: A lot of work needs to be done on encouragement because I can see it when we have our call for papers – I feel like 90% are guys or even more than 90%. I think we had like two or three out of 70 from the call for papers. Anybody who's out there and you're part of a minority please go speak at conferences. I want to help you! You can reach out to me, and I'm sure there are many other speakers in our community who want to help you and support and get you there. We need it.

Paul Hudson: And if you are listening to this, please talk to Carola. She's really friendly, she'll help you out, she'll take you to Lugano. Lugano is gorgeous, honestly you've got no idea how beautiful this town is. It's the the Italian section of Switzerland – it has huge mountains, beautiful lakes, lovely people, and a great conference. Carola's there – use this opportunity. We genuinely do want to help you get that first foot on the ladder because once you've done your first talk you'll know, "I wasn't so bad” or “I hate speaking.” But either way at least you'll know for sure “I liked that one, I’ll do it again” or “I hated that, I never want to do it again,” and that's what really matters – to have that first step to move forward with.

"You don't need to start immediately with a conference; maybe you just want to give a small talk at your company about a recent feature you worked on."

Carola Nitz: And you can start small, you don't need to be at a conference first, you can also just go to a local meetup with a lot of people. And you can try your talk out at the meetups first, then get better and take it to a conference. You don't need to start immediately with a conference; maybe you just want to give a small talk at your company about a recent feature that you worked on.

Paul Hudson: One thing I find continually interesting is how some folks are genuinely against making a change. Literally as we've been talking about having a more diverse group of speakers on stage, someone's pressed a dislike button on our video. Presumably they are saying to themselves, “no, I dislike the idea of having different people on stage.” And that's what we're fighting against – we're fighting a very, very seriously entrenched 20, 30, 40 years of men doing this, and we've got a lot of change to get through.

This transcript was recorded as part of Swiftly Speaking. You can watch the full original episode on YouTube, or subscribe to the audio version on Apple Podcasts.

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