Cong Digital Un-conference first in Ireland to offer free childcare for speakers

26 Aug 2015

Ashford Castle, Cong, which will play host to a display of innovative technology during the festival

The make-up of tech conferences is a hot topic right now, with calls coming from all quarters to ensure that speaker rosters are more representative of the tech scene and of society as a whole.

That’s something Inspirefest 2015 managed with aplomb, ‘changing the ratio’ to ensure that 75pc of the conference’s onstage guests were women.

Inspirefest, though, isn’t the only Irish tech conference determined to make a difference.

Congregation Digital Technology Un-conference, held in Cong, Co Mayo, has, historically, enjoyed a 60:40 ratio of men to women, and always strives to keep its speakers as diverse as possible.

At Congregation, taking place this year on 28 November, organisers are taking the unique approach of offering free childcare to allow parents to speak at the conference guilt-free.

According to organisers, Congregation will be the first conference in Ireland to do this.

“We are very conscious that weekends are precious times for families and organising childcare can be difficult, so this year we have supervised activities for families so speakers are free to take their minds for a guilt-free gallop,” said Eoin Kennedy, Congregation organiser.

While some 62 speakers have already signed up for the 2015 event – 38 men, 24 women – Kennedy is eager to open the speaker roster up even more. He hopes the provision of childcare will make it easier for parents to get involved.

“We believe individuals and businesses have unique insights into how our society and lives are being changed by technology, and would encourage them to participate,” added Kennedy.

A conference with a difference

Congregation has always been a conference with a difference.

First and foremost, speakers aren’t courted so much as encouraged to apply.

To earn a ticket, speakers must publish a submission – a 600-word written blog post, a three-minute video or a five-minute audio post.

Furthermore, open to speakers only, it is very much a collaborative affair, with speakers presenting to small groups, and groups rotating until all speakers have had a chance to speak to all groups.

Talks take place in disparate venues around the village, including in coffee shops, bars, restaurants and exhibition spaces.

According to Kennedy: “The ethos behind Congregation is to revolutionise the way people communicate, connect and share information at events, and also to show that a small west of Ireland village can host a sustainable, international technology event.”

Topics up for discussion this year range from wearables and augmented reality to the future of music and education.

This year, the event also includes a social calendar, incorporating a display of innovative technology at Ashford Castle.

Congregation is accepting topic submissions until 11 September.

Main image via Shutterstock

Kirsty Tobin was careers editor at Silicon Republic