Getting the Best Conference Speakers with Blind Submissions


When we decided to launch our conference last year, we knew we wanted the best speakers and topics. Here's how we ensured we got them to DataLayer.

About this time last year, we gave you a look into how we do blind hiring. “It’s helped us hire people based on their talents and abilities rather than their alma mater or other resume-stuffing data. As a result, we’ve hired some great people. When we decided to start DataLayer Conference, those of us planning the conference thought, "Let's do the same thing with our speakers."

Full-disclosure, not all of our speakers are selected this way. Last year, we reached out to Mitch Pirtle to keynote our conference and present on The Polyglot Experience. This year, we decided to try for a morning and an afternoon keynote and reached out to Kelsey Hightower and Charity Majors. Charity will kick us off with a talk on Observability and the Glorious Future and we'll hear from Kelsey later in the day on Scaling Out SQL Databases.

For the rest of the DataLayer line up, we opened up submissions on our DataLayer website and had a huge response. As those came in through Formkeep, Zapier automagically added them to a Google Sheet. We learned from last year the need to look these over before sending them off to be reviewed to weed out submissions from jokesters, trolls, and those who didn't read what the conference was. Once I looked over those, the title, description, and length of the talk (10 or 30 minutes) were copied over to new Google Sheet for each reviewer. To anonymize our submissions, I did not copy over the name, title or company of the participant and removed all identifiable information possible.

We selected seven of the Compose staff from different teams (technical writers, developers, engineers, etc) who have all frequented the conference circuits to review the submissions. They rated each submission on a scale of 1-5 based on how well the topic would fit with our target audience, the uniqueness of the topic, and how well they address issues facing those working with the data layer. The reviewers had no clue who they were reviewing, where they worked, gender, age, ethnicity, or anything. It was truly a blind process.

From there, we compiled all the ratings, averaged them out, sorted by the average score to select our speakers. By following a blind selection process and only focusing on the speaking topic, we were able to pull together what we think is an awesome conference agenda, all without bias to the speaker’s gender or company. To us, the content speaks volumes.

We have some great talks lined up again this year from our blind review process with speakers from Meteor, Digit, Comand Prompt, Inc/PostgreSQL Foundation,, Appbase, IBM,, and more. To see who’s speaking at DataLayer 2017, you can view the entire agenda at

We've got our speakers and full schedule so you can see the results of our process.You can get your early bird ticket for the conference, Wednesday, May 17th at the Alamo Draft House on Lamar in Austin, TX for only $99 here. This includes your ticket for the conference, breakfast, lunch, and our after party. You don't want to miss the event.

Thom Crowe
Thom Crowe was a marketing and community guy at Compose, who enjoys long walks on the beach, reading, spending time with his wife and daughter and tinkering. Love this article? Head over to Thom Crowe’s author page to keep reading.

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