The KC Speaker Community Engima

Explaining the Kansas City Speaker enigma - why do so many speakers at technical conferences all over the world come from Kansas City?

January 07, 2019

“You’re from Kansas City, too? Why are so many of you from Kansas City???”

This is a common thing for us to hear at conferences, both stateside and international, and it makes us quietly smile and beam with pride. What is it about our little flyover city that produces so many fantastic technical speakers sharing their KC pride all over the world at technical conferences. In my opinion, it’s our community-first focus. A large majority of the technical community leaders in Kansas City are deeply dedicated to growing and building our community, without a thought to the loss of personal gain(for instance, only a limited number of speaker spots per conf) while the pool grows.

We’re a community that shares CFPs, encourages newcomers to submit talks, and offers to review abstracts. We’re a community that understands we’re stronger together and lifting each other up makes us all shine.

Jon Mills, Jeff Strauss, Lee Brandt

Jon Jeff and Lee at KCDC 2017

Jon, Jeff, and Lee run our hometown conference KCDC and in my opinion are the catalysts for the Kansas City speaking community. KCDC is the conference where SEVERAL speakers, including myself, Heather Downing, Krista LeFuentes, and THE Cory House got their starts. Jon, Jeff and Lee are incredibly supportive of first time speakers, not only encouraging them to submit, but always being available to offer advice, and most importantly finding ways to introduce and include them in the larger community.

All three are brilliant technologists and talented, witty speakers in their own right - great for a beginner speaker to learn by example from - but their relentless focus on growing and building community, regardless of the individual’s status makes them and invaluable part of producing such high caliber speakers from our area. Not to say that we don’t “adopt” other individuals, like Josh, Sandi, Lemon, and technically Jeff, as he’s actually from St. Louis.

For a glimpse into international speaker life and selfies that would make any millenial cringe, be sure to follow #JeffAndJonsExcellentAdventure on twitter!

#JeffAndJonsExcellentAdventure

PS. The CFP for KCDC is open through January 31st, apply and come see what our community is all about.

Ladies at KCDC 2016 Awesome ladies at KCDC <3

Cory House

Cory house at KCDC 2017

Cory House was my inspiration to start speaking in 2013. I saw his “Outlier” talk at KCDC and loved his style and approach. In true midwestern style, Cory is always humble and approachable at conferences despite his world renowned status and vast twitter minion following. Cory also has compiled a great list of resources for starting speakers - I often reference to when coaching my own speaking mentees, check it out here: https://github.com/coryhouse/speaker-starter-kit

Me

Jennifer Wadella teaching Jewelbots at KCDC 2017

I’ve always said that part of my goal in speaking is to inspire much smarter, much more talented women than myself to get on stage in my place. Being community-first is part of my nature, it’s been that way since I was 5 years old recruiting kids in my neighborhood into playing street hockey or building forts out of a new refrigerator box, and it continues today as I bring people together, whether by building communities like Kansas City Women in Technology, or finding new speakers at conferences and bringing them into the social fold(I jokingly call them ducklings, cause I’m a momma duck making sure everyones there as we move to different events).

If you’re interested in getting started as a speaker, I always have mentoring spots open on my calendar: here

Conferences with high concentration KC peeps

Having a community like ours makes conferencing infinitely more fun - there’s always a friendly face to sight-see with, grab a drink with, and introduce you to other conference speakers and organizers. If you’re new to speaking, seek out a speaker from Kansas City and we’ll bring you into the fold with open arms! (Unless you’re an asshole, then the deal’s off = p)

DevUp, DevNexus, Codemash, NDC conferences, Amegala Conferences, Buildstuff, Techorama, Devoxx Conferences, That Conference are all places you stand the chance of running into 2+ speakers from KC!

We had THREE WOMEN from Kansas City who spoke at DjangoCon in 2018 - Sara Heins, Ashley Sullins, and Muriel Green!!!

Sarah, Ashley and Muriel at DjangoCon2018

KC Tech Speakers

This is a list of speakers that do/have done 3+ conferences per year, or WILL do that many as they’re a mentee of mine = p Feel free to follow them on twitter and say “hi” at conferences you’ll inevitably see them out.

( * = international, + = KC expat)

TLDR; Kansas City is an AMAZING place, and you should submit to(or just attend!) KCDC to come see what we’re all about!

<3 Cheers from the plane on the way to Codemash, where I’m sitting across the aisle from fellow KC Speaker Mat! #nomakeupcauseidiotjenniferbookeda7amflight

Jennifer & Mat on the way to Codemash - first conf of 2019!