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Lady Conference Speaker: Speaker Bios

wiredferret profile image Heidi Waterhouse Originally published at heidiwaterhouse.com on ・3 min read

This is, of course, intended to help all potential speakers, but it’s important to me to make sure that my speaking advice is explicitly targeted to women and other under-represented speakers.

The point of a speaker biography is to give people a little context for your talk. It doesn’t need to be long or elaborate, but it does need to tell people why they should listen to you.

So! You need to write a speaker bio. And you’ve been trying to do it for 3 hours now, and you’ve come up with “Me make smart ideas and eat cookies, which is for C”. Somehow you don’t feel like that will meet the goals of the conference or meetup you’re hoping to impress. But how do you do better?

A pink-haired white woman stares off into the upper distance. She is wearing dark glasses and bright lipstick and a whimsical expression

Collective action

The easiest way I’ve ever found to write a biography or anything where nice things should get said about me is to get together with several friends and write them for each other. It’s much easier to say nice things about our friends than ourselves, and they’ll remember things as a group that we forget as ourselves. So let me encourage you to make a party of it. A little cookie dough, a heartening viewing of Legally Blonde, and you’ll find it much less stressful.

The formula

  • Who are you?
  • Why is this something you can speak about?
  • What’s something fun that people can remember about you?

Here’s what I’m using for mine right now:

Heidi is a developer advocate with LaunchDarkly. She delights in working at the intersection of usability, risk reduction, and cutting-edge technology. One of her favorite hobbies is talking to developers about things they already knew but had never thought of that way before. She sews all her conference dresses so that she’s sure there is a pocket for the mic.

Yeah, they’re almost all written in the third person. It’s the standard.

So as you can see, I introduce who I am and who I work for. I have a sentence about what I’m interested in and why I’m probably giving this talk. My third sentence is sort of optional, but does make people ask me what I mean. The last sentence is both true and quirky.

Here’s another example:

An orange and white cat with an orange mustache snuggles into a human hand

Beepulon is a small orange katten just under a year old. He is an expert in making strange un-catlike noises, and also loud sniffing noises. When he is not meeping, prrbping, or snorfling, he enjoys breaking all the rules by standing on the table.

If you went to a session with someone who had this bio, I bet you would not be surprised to hear weird noises and get orange fur on you.

Here are some ideas for what you can put in your sentences.

First sentence

  • Your name (and pronouns, if you wish)
  • Your employer if they are paying for you to be there (if not, consider if they deserve free advertising)
  • Your job title or community standing

Second sentence

  • Your expertise or interests
  • Something that relates to your talk subject
  • Why you’re gonna be great at this

Third sentence

  • Something personal, but nothing embarrassing or that you don’t want to hear about from others
  • Something cute or funny
  • A twist or unique take on your topic

Conclusion

A speaker bio doesn’t exist to tell us everything about you and your experience, just to give us a hint about you and your presentation. It’s stressful to say nice things about yourself sometimes, but if you fill in the blanks, it’s probably going to be a little easier. Write with friends!

Posted on Feb 28 '19 by:

wiredferret profile

Heidi Waterhouse

@wiredferret

Heidi is a developer advocate at LaunchDarkly. She is passionate about clear communication, humane workplaces, and conference speaking. In her spare time, she sews dresses with pockets.

Discussion

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Thanks for the advice Heidi, I'm starting to speak at conferences and I'm still not super sure about the bio I've done. I think I will try looking at it with some of your advice, and see if I can tune it up a bit.

 

I'd be happy to take a look at it, if you'd like.

 

Wow I know this is so late, but here it is if you still have a bit:

Christine is from Omaha, Nebraska where she works as a full stack Ruby on Rails engineer at Flywheel, WordPress hosting for creatives. She has 12 years experience as a Java software engineer with a focus on APIs and micro-services and took the plunge into Ruby/Rails just this last year. In her spare time she is an avid reader, mega fan of Rush and is attempting to work through the primary Ashtanga yoga series.

 

Great advice! I had my bio professionally written, but it is wayyy too long. I am going to try this tactic.