Why I love Captioning for Conferences

I had been to conferences with live transcription before, but SRCCON 2014 was my first time seeing them at a mainstream conference. The transcription services even inspired a battle between a debate champion and the captioner. Three years later, and I’ve gone back the transcripts a few times a phrase or remind myself of the conversation.

I am generally a person without any hearing related disability. I’m sure years of playing music, working concerts, and listening to headphones has left me with some hearing loss, but in general, I can hear at conferences. Except sometimes the room is loud. Or a person near me is talking. Or the mic isn’t held close enough to the speaker. In those cases, I’m reminded of one of the top reasons I love live captioning for tech conferences.

Anyone in the room can become a non-hearing person

Anyone has been to a conference has sat near someone that needed to comment on the presentation while it is going on.  I’m sorry if that person was me for you. Having the ability to see what was said, helps me when I miss something that was spoken.

Real-time captioning also allows the audience to be less focused on taking notes since the talk is already available in text. Some people are less auditory of learners and thus the written record allows them
learn using a method that works better for them.

Transcripts allow the speaker to see what we said

Like many speakers, I have verbal ticks that I fall back on. Transcripts allow me to see how many times I say “you know” or begin a sentence with “so”. The live transcript can also be utilized to help create a blog post from your talk.

People need it to attend

As much as captions help me, they can make the difference between someone being able to learn at an event and someone not being able to learn. 360 million people have disabling hearing loss. Captioning of conferences can help make it possible for that otherwise could not participate to participate.

The other day, a video made the rounds of a man being gifted Enchroma glasses and experiencing color for the first time.  Helen Hou-Sandí asked the question “What if we thought about web accessibility work as bringing these moments to people?”  What if we also thought about event accessibility as bringing these moments to people?

The right to learn is the right to earn. Education, both formal and informal, is the foundation for advancement. Captioning can break down a barrier that prevents people from learning. By enabling all people to learn, we enable all people to earn.

Fall Conferences – PHP Madison and WordCamp NYC

Today I get to announce two conferences that I’m speaking at this fall. The first is here in NYC and is the 2015 WordCamp NYC.  I’ll be giving a talk entitled:
Lessons from Science Fiction and Fantasy we can use in Creating Websites.  Here is a short synopsis.

Science Fiction and Fantasy can teach web creators many valuable lessons. From seeing how Daleks with too narrow of a goal always fail to understanding the Klingons value of honor, to hundreds of other we can become better web creators by borrowing lessons from Science Fiction and Fantasy.

Next, I’ll be traveling to Madison, Wisconsin for the first time in almost 10 years to present “How Not To Build A WordPress Plugin” at Madison PHP.  A short synopsis of this talk is

WordPress has a powerful plugin architecture that enables you to build almost anything on top of WordPress. This power though can lead to anti-patterns that slow down sites, confuse users, and make it hard to scale. Let’s look at the wrong way of building plugins so you can avoid these traps.

Tickets for both events are on sale.  If you are either one, make sure to say hi!

The Benefits of a Good Conference Introduction

Many technical conferences have no speaker introductions or very poor introductions.  “Next up is, um *look at phone* Aaron who will be talking about, um *look at screen* The Next Big Thing”.  While this does serve the benefit of helping people make sure they are in the room they intend to be in, it doesn’t do anything to help the crowd get ready for the talk or help the speaker get ready to deliver a talk.  A good introduction on the other hand gives the speaker ethos.

Ethos is one of three components of persuasion that Aristotle identified in his treatise Rhetoric. Ethos serves as the ethical appeal.  It’s the standing a speaker has.  A good introduction explains not who a speaker is, but why they have the privilege of standing up there and presenting. When you introduce a speaker, you give them credibility. This allows them to immediately focus on logos and to a lesser degree pathos. These are Aristotle’s categories for logical and emotional appeals.

At WordCamp NYC 2014, I introduced Boone Gorges, the keynote speaker.  Let’s breakdown my introduction:

At WordCamp NYC 2010, John James Jacoby introduced our next speaker as a core committer to BuddyPress. Today, I get to introduce him as the lead developer of BuddyPress and our keynote speaker.

I am establishing him as someone with a history at the event and as someone with a prominent place in the community.

During the intervening four years, he has become a full time freelance developer, released dozens of free plugins to the WordPress community and has spent thousands of unpaid hours doing development work contributing to open source software projects.

Boone’s talk was going to focus on contributions to WordPress and the role that freelance developers have in the creation of WordPress. By mentioning his work as a full time freelancer and his contributions to the WordPress project, he can be seen right away as someone who knows about the topic. He has lived it.

He has accomplished all of this while also finishing 46th in 2014 National Crossword Tournament.

I knew that one thing Boone would mention was that he had been in the room this address was before, so I helped him establish this by mentioning his excellent placement in the National Crossword Tournament.

He secretly wishes that he has a masters degree in philosophy. He also grew up in Wisconsin, which is known more for its cheese and beer than the semi-pro football team that plays in Green Bay.

Boone isn’t just a developer, he is a person and someone who has studied philosophy. He also likes a bad football team 😀.

Please join me in welcoming our keynote speaker, Boone Gorges.

I create the expectation with the audience that we are beginning.  That I am leaving so they should cheer.

If you are planning a conference, you should spend some time thinking about the introductions.  If you don’t know the speaker well enough, perhaps you can ask them to write a first draft.  If you don’t know why the speaker is going to be getting up there, perhaps you should ask yourself why they are speaking at your event.