Outlier 2022 is coming up and we are so excited to show you what we’ve been preparing this past year. Whether you’re joining us for the first time or attending your first-ever conference, we hope to create a space to celebrate the global data visualization community through inspiring talks and connections.

As we finalize the event, we wanted to share a little bit about how we chose our speaker lineup. From the start, our goal was to find and amplify diverse global perspectives on data visualization, and we built our speaker selection process accordingly. Here’s what we did.

The selection process

Call for speakers

We started preparing for the call for speakers in early April. We spread this call as widely as possible, translating it into eight different languages (thanks to our volunteer translators) and sharing the link across the globe, with extra care to share it in parts of the world that visualization conferences have traditionally had trouble reaching. Our application window was open for a little over a month and we received a total of 134 submissions.

Selection methodology

A team of six people (from the DVS events committee) evaluated all 130+ speakers, with the goal of eventually narrowing down to 26 talks. We have done our best to create a fair speaker selection process that does not preference fame and ignores organizational affiliations, and instead prizes originality of the talk, relevance to the audience, and diversity of perspective. Additionally, we do not give any curated speaker slots to sponsors in return for sponsorship (which is in line with our no-pitch policy).

We first did an initial round of rating, which resulted in a list of talks, ranked by their evaluation scores; however, we can’t just take the top 26 talks and call it a day. Why’s that? Outlier  aims to reflect and celebrate the entire data visualization community. We work to create an environment where each person in attendance will feel included, represented, and heard. Therefore, this is the point in the selection process at which we need to start thinking about balance. Some of the criteria for which we do our best to balance are: geographic location, tooling, background/focus, visibility/seniority in the field, and a general diversity of perspective. 

To start thinking about this balance, each reviewer was next tasked with coming up with a lineup—as if they were creating our own conference and doing their best to come up with a good balance—so that we could see where there was overlap.

It’s worth noting that, at this stage, narrowing a pool of talks from 130 down to 26 is really, really hard. Our combined lists after this activity included twice as many talks as there were spots available. Alas, after narrowing down our list, we then mapped the speakers based on very important criteria to us—geographic spread, topics covered, first-time speakers, etc.—and had a long discussion with the team about it. It was a hard process full of difficult decisions, and having to say no to some truly fantastic talks because there simply wasn’t space for them all. However, we were eventually able to settle on our final set of talks.

The 2022 lineup

Our final lineup includes 26 curated talks and 36 speakers for the two days of conference. For the full list of speakers, take a look here.

Lineup breakdown 

Note: These statistics are based on who we accepted to speak. There may be some slight variation if any speakers drop out.

  • Across all selected talks, 37 percent of the speakers are from North America, 34 percent are from Europe, 14 percent are from APAC, six percent are from South America, six percent are from the Middle East, and three percent are from Africa.
  • 57 percent of speakers use she/her pronouns, while 43 percent use he/him.
  • 20 percent of speakers described themselves as first-time speakers, early career professionals, or students.

*Note: the geographic breakdown is categorized by the 2021 grouping to allow comparability between years.

To view our 2021 statistics, read last year’s article.

We want your feedback

We are committed to curating a conference that represents the global dataviz community. In order to do our best to encourage speakers to apply from across the diverse data visualization community, and to reach a global audience, we did/are doing the following: 

  • Posted a public “Call for Speakers” to provide a space for anyone interested to apply, making the process accessible to new or lesser-known practitioners
  • Encouraged first-time speakers with a mentorship program
  • Providing support for speakers to present in whatever language is most comfortable to them
  • Paying speakers for their work
  • Scheduled talks around the clock (~20 hours) to allow for worldwide reach
  • Worked to create a final lineup that highlights a balance of perspectives
  • Offering other opportunities to present via lightning talks and unconference sessions

We recognize that Western voices are still overrepresented among our curated speaker lineup, and this is primarily because 66 percent of our speaking applications came from North America and Europe. As we progress with future iterations, we are going to continue to work toward expanding our global reach and encouraging applications from the rest of the world. We welcome your ideas on how we can more effectively accomplish that goal. 

Get involved

Stay tuned as we reveal more  information about the conference in the upcoming weeks. Check out the agenda, grab a ticket, sign up to volunteer at the conference, or submit an application to join the DVS Events Committee.

In any case, see you on February 4!

Yi Ning is a data consultant at the World Bank’s Global Education Practice based in Washington D.C.