It was April 10th 2018 at about 11pm, I was in Utrecht, the Netherlands for TestBash Netherlands. I was about to go to sleep when I decided to check Twitter, a habit I can’t seem to kick! I was expecting the norm, a few new notifications to check and to skim over the latest tweets. I got that, but I also had a DM from the awesome Julie Sharp directing me towards a tweet from Karolina Szczur, or @fox on Twitter. This was the tweet:

Julie had seen this tweet, checked the lineup and saw I was speaking there, I was one of those 87 men. I remember accepting this conference, it’s a developer-focused conference, something I personally want to talk at more. I have very strong views on PayToSpeak conferences, and they’d assured me all speakers would be reimbursed for travel and accommodation, so I accepted their invitation. They booked my flights, hotel and I added it to my calendar, I thought no more off it. A pattern I’ve taken with nearly every event I’ve spoken at. I tend to usually look at the rest of the programme while waiting at the airport on route to the event.

But upon seeing Karolina’s tweet, it was time for a change.

Firstly, there was absolutely no way I could attend that conference, such a line up goes against everything I believe and support. It doesn’t matter how much they may have tried, or speakers cancelling, the final result is something I can simply not support. So, I emailed them within 5 minutes of reading Karolina’s tweet so inform them I would no longer be attending.

Hello, This tweet was brought to my attention, I cannot support such a lineup. It goes against what I stand for, and what my company stands for.
Therefore I’m withdrawing from Code Europe, please remove me from the speakers’ page ASAP.
I’m more than happy to cover the cost of my flight if required, but I cannot attend the event with that lineup.
All the best,

They promptly actioned my request in the morning, I shared my actions on Twitter, and I have to say, was absolutely blown away by the response.

My first reaction was anger, followed by disappointment. How did I let this happen? Your name was on that conference page Richard, your company was on that page! I felt embarrassed. These thoughts came after cancelling my attendance, cancelling was a must, as a male speaker who cares about their craft, cares about inclusion, there was only one option, the right one. It was great to read a few replies later from some of the other male speakers cancelling their attendance. Post that though, I was really disappointed in myself, I stayed awake till 2am questioning my approach to conferences. I had to make some changes, and my Speaker Rider is the first of them.

Before we look into that in more depth though, I want to say thank you to every single person that liked my tweet, quoted me saying really nice things about my actions and stance. Truly humbled by it. I was even quoted in a post by Better Alies. I know I’m a better ally in the tech industry, I’ve tried to show this with my stance on PayToSpeak conferences, with how we organise our conferences at Ministry of Testing and how I try to offer support to all. However, in this instance, I failed, and actions need to be taken to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

It was actually Karolina who introduced me to the term Speaker Rider in some of her responses to her own tweet. In my head, a rider was what celebrities asked for, and they tend to include things like ten white kittens, only orange smarties and a pink sofa. But, if you remove the celebrity mindset from it, it’s simply a list of demands in order to get their services. I was already doing that with my requirements on PayToSpeak, so it’s about time I made it formal, to try and avoid a situation like above happening to me in the future. I also hope it inspires others to take similar action, and we can improve the shape of future conferences.

You can read the full rider here, it includes detailed breakdowns for each section. If you want the TL;DR though, it’s here:

  • Must have a Code of Conduct
  • Diverse Speakers
  • Not pay to speak*
  • Fees for workshops, tutorials and keynotes
  • Workshop and tutorial max attendance is up to me