A ton of folks reach out about speaking at Clarity. I think it’s really great that people are interested in this little event. However, I noticed a trend. About 98% of the people who reach out are cisgender straight white men. Don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with being a cisgender straight white man. But it didn’t make sense to me that almost everyone reaching out fit into this demographic. If I only relied on these requests, this would not make for a very diverse or inclusive event.
Also, most of the people who reach out want to talk about why and how they built a design system at their company. I think it’s safe to say that most people attending this event (especially those who have attended a previous event) are looking for something more than a show and tell.
I made the decision at the very beginning that I will not accept any formal proposals for speaking. I would instead personally curate a line up that would provide a diverse range of perspectives — not just for race and gender — but also in subject matter expertise, experience levels (I love inviting people who are brand new to speaking), healthy differences in opinions, and many other factors. My ideal line up mixes all the things I love about design systems. Brand and visual design, component libraries and documentation, content guidelines, design process and operations, and more.
I’ll be really direct here. Just because you work on a famous design system doesn’t mean you’ll speak at Clarity. If I had 12 show-and-tell presentations, honestly, I think that’d make a really boring conference. There are tons of great conferences that would love for these kinds of talks. But that’s not what I want Clarity to be.
Instead, I want to create an experience that covers a wide range of topics like accessibility, motion and animation, data visualization, performance, illustration — all within the context of design systems, of course. So it’s very likely I will select someone you’ve never heard of, or who works on a design system that isn’t publicly shared, but they bring a really unique perspective to the event. But then I’ll add someone who is very famous just to mix it up a bit. That is what excites me about curation.
There are zero sponsored presentations during the main event. There are only 6 talks in a day, and I don’t think it would do a good service to the attendees. (I do, however, allow a few small lightning talks at the Happy Hour for top-tier partners, but those presentations have to be approved by me for quality and educational (meaningful) content. This is a great way to hear additional case studies by partners who help make the event happen.
I’m proud that people have called Clarity a very diverse event. But I must admit, I didn’t have to try that hard. The Design Systems community is a very diverse one, and it’s not difficult to find people from all sorts of backgrounds and perspectives. You just have to look.
While I do not allow sponsored presentations, and there is not a Call for Proposals/Presentations, I did want to provide an opportunity to put someone on my radar. My Design Systems Slack has over 8,000 people in it, so I do discover new people constantly. But there is probably someone amazing out there I don’t know about. So tell me about them! And if you decide to use this form to submit yourself, that’s okay, too. Just understand that this does not guarantee a speaking engagement. It just puts people on my radar for consideration for future events.
If you know me, you know that I’ve spoken at quite a few conferences. When a conference treats me well, I take note. I wanted to provide the best experience I could within my means (as an individual running this conference, rather than a large company with lots of financial support). Each year I try to step it up a little, within my reasonable means.
A speaker reception the night before the conference with tasty food and beverages. This lets the speakers all get to know each other and get their badges and swag bags in advance. They can also bring a guest. If the location has an outdoor roof deck, patio, or courtyard, we saber champagne!
All speakers can bring a guest with them to the event and other related events.
All speakers can attend a future Clarity event for free. If a speaker already bought a pass, they can give the pass to someone else, request a refund and keep their registration, or donate their extra ticket to the scholarship fund.
I always ask if speakers need childcare, accessibility-related accommodations, or any other special requests.