Elyse Holladay curating 2015 Speaker Selection!

Elyse Holladay has been part of SassConf since our inagural year in 2013 when she took a risk on a first time conference and came to participate as panelist—forever immortilizing the SassConf panel as one our must-have conference events. Now a Front-End Architect at RetailMeNot, she's active in her local Austin community, helping Una Kravets & Ian Carrico run the ATXSass meetup.

She caught our attention with some interesting tweets about events and some conversations—over delicious food and wine, because that's how we roll—about speaker benefits, getting attendees in the conversation, the “speaker clique,” and conference culture. That's when we knew we wanted to have her on the SassConf team.

We reached out to Elyse and asked if she wanted to help us do speaker selection for 2015. We couldn't believe she said “yes!”

While blind reviews and/or anonymous CFP processes may have worked for other conferences, it didn't work for us. This year, we'll have someone on our team that is 100% dedicated to ensuring our stage reflects the voices of the Sass community.

We are excited and honored to work with Elyse. Already her contributions have been paramount. We spent a few days in Austin nailing down the details of the CFP and we are so excited for 2015!

— Claudina & the SassConf Team



CS: What are you hoping to bring to SassConf this year?

EH: I spent an eternity trying to nail down my goals for speaker selection and finally came to this: "more unique content from each speaker, consistently high presentation quality, and diverse types of sessions." (Shout out to my fiancé—SassConf isn't the only thing I said yes to this year!—for helping me fine-tune that.) Some of the complaints from conferences I've been to recently (not just SassConf!) have been repetitive content, not-so-great speakers, and lack of diversity (of speakers but also types of events, e.g. all 40 min talks). I tweeted a few things about the kind of event I would want to run, but damn if running a conference isn't a ton of work. I'm super excited to get some insight into what that takes and see if I can help SassConf be even more amazing.

We have talked a lot about reflecting the incredibly diverse Sass community on stage, and obviously that's a huge priority, but I can't do that singlehandedly. My experiences aren't the same as anyone else's, and I don't want to assume they are. But I can act as a curator and make sure that the events and speakers we have reflect the community. I want to get y'all engaged and involved—I want new voices, new talks, new content! And if you don't want to speak, I want to know what it is you want to see so we can make it happen!

One of the things I'm most excited about is the amount of speaker prep and mentoring we are going to do this year. As a speaker, you don't necessarily know what anyone else is planning. So often, you get to the conference and realize that half the speakers are covering half your content. We're going to spend a ton of time with our speakers to make sure their talks are the best they can be, that they have insight into what else is going on, and that we can cover a wide range of content. We want to bring a lot more content for various skill levels this year too, both for beginners and for more advanced Sass developers.

Lastly, I want to bring some love, attention, and yes, transparency to the speaker selection process. It's tough being a speaker—the idea, the nervewracking stress of putting yourself and your ideas out there, the prep, the travel!—and I promise that on the other side, as an organizer, I won't forget that. I also promise that having quality of talks as a goal will not mean that you'll only see the usual suspects on stage this year—that's why we're spending so much effort on speaker mentoring. And of course, attendees and Sasstronauts everywhere, this is all for you. So if you have questions, or concerns, or something you really do or don't want to see, I promise the SassConf team and I will figure it out to the best of our ability!


CS: Are you excited that SassConf is coming to Austin?

EH: Are you kidding!? That's not even a question! (insert breakfast taco emoji here)


CS: What's your favorite SassConf memory?

EH: Can it be the one where Claudina and I decided over a bottle of wine to have SassConf in Austin?

Seriously though, I think I'm gonna have to go with the moment before the panel in 2013 when I was alone in the theater and my name was on screen.

T minus thirty minutes. doing panel prep. this is so surreal. #sassconf

A photo posted by Elyse Holladay (@elyseholladay) on


Before that, I'd only given talks at small local meetups and taught GDI classes. This was my first "big" event and it was SO crazy to be standing there knowing that everyone was about to come in and I was going to have to say stuff like I knew what I was doing! And then Hampton and Chris Eppstein were asking us questions.. it was insanely cool. SassConf totally got me hooked on the conference speaking thing.


CS: How can people get in touch if they have CFP questions?

EH: The best way is to email me at my SassConf email: elyse[at]sassconf[dot]com. You can also tweet at me (@elyseholladay) or at @SassConf. No question is a dumb question!

Also, if you're submitting a proposal, they're editable until the deadline! Go ahead and submit one and you can ask for constructive criticism or come back and edit away.

Can't wait to see what y'all send in—I know it's gonna be amazing!!