Other important services

Internet access

Everyone at a software conference expects to be provided with wireless Internet access. This doesn’t necessarily mean they should have it. In fact, there’s a strong case that people listening to talks don’t shouldn’t be using the Internet at the same time, but should be paying attention, and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t point this out and discourage Internet use in the auditorium.

All the same, some people do need access, perhaps because:

  • they are doing live demos in their talks
  • they are writing up and publishing reports of each talk (see the magnificent work of Reinout van Rees or Hamish Downer for examples of this valuable public service)
  • they have work to do


Don’t just accept assurances that your venues’ network capacity will be up to the job. The problem with access - and there is almost always a problem, somewhere - is rarely one of bandwidth, but one of connectivity to the wireless network.

You may have 350 attendees, but that doesn’t mean 350 devices - most people will have a laptop and a phone, and others may even have three or more devices. 350 attendees could quite easily be nearly a thousand devices on the network at once.

Make sure the network providers understand this. Have a direct mobile telephone number of one or preferably two people whom you can call on if you run into serious problems. Have a plan for backup or alternative network provision.

Speech-to-text reporting

Speech-to-text reporting - live transcription of speech to text - is currently not often used at software conferences, but that is changing. The value it brings is immense.

How it works

A team of two or more STTRs will sit together where they have a clear view of the speaker(s). They’ll typically wear headphones and will need a high quality audio feed (expect to be asked for an XLR connector) of all the speech they are to transcribe, including questions from the floor.

They will be equipped with their own laptop computers and software, and also their stenographic keyboards. They will produce video output from the laptops, so their text can be projected or distributed to large-screen televisions situated at various points in the auditorium.

The text itself is in large type and scrolls up line-by-line.

Their text follows the speech with a minimal delay.

If you plan to use the transcripts to accompany the published conference videos, mention this beforehand when asking for a quote, because it’s not necessarily included and involves additional work.

The STTRs need to work in a team as it involves intense concentrations, and they will usually switch over to each other every 20 minutes or so. They will be working extremely hard all day, so let them have an accurate picture of your day’s schedule in advance so they know what to expect.

Your STTRs should also be provided with:

  • a list of all speakers’ names and talk titles
  • a list of the most commonly technical terms you expect speakers to use
  • plenty of thank-yous from the podium

Why you need it

Usually speech-to-text reporting is provided for people with hearing impairments, but in fact just about everyone benefits from it. Attendees whose first language is not English - a significant proportion of most software conferences, and nearly all of them at an event like a DjangoCon Europe - find it extremely useful. It doesn’t just help them catch more of the words or meaning that they might otherwise have missed, it also makes the whole experience at the conference more relaxing, because they know that if their attention falters for a moment they can simply look up at one of the screens and pick up the thread again.

For people who actually have hearing impairments, speech-to-text reporting can be enough to make it worth coming to an event in the first place.


Speech-to-text reporting at DjangoCon Europe cost us £2850 (£2530 for services at the event, plus £320 for the transcripts) for two STTRs over four days; the service was worth every penny.

How to hire STTRs

Our STTRs were Sheryll Holley and Hilary Maclean, both very highly recommended. They were provided by Action on Hearing Loss (formerly known as the Royal National Institute for the Deaf), but STTRs can also be approached directly.

See the UK Assocation of Verbatim Speech to Text Reporters.