Why don’t they just let the speaker speak?

A common question/complaint concerns how often C++Now speakers are interrupted by questions (and sometime by comments that aren’t even questions) from the audience. Sometimes viewers are thinking, “I’m not watching this to hear you, I’m listening for the speaker.” This results from a misunderstanding about the nature of our conference. C++Now is very much a collaborative conference.

At most conferences, the assumption (usually correct) is that the most knowledgable person on the subject at hand is at the front of the room. But at C++Now, a speaker may be discussing features that were added to C++ based on proposals authored by members of the audience. The collective understanding of the speaker and the audience is what makes a C++Now session such a valuable experience.

Questions and comments by the audience are not distractions, they are the reason that C++Now exists and why it is a different experience than other C++ conferences.

Why Aspen?

It’s an understandable question: when some people think of Aspen, they see a glitzy skiing and shopping playground for the rich. But this town has another side that’s in many ways stronger and more fundamental: a tradition of fostering intellectual and artistic collaboration. Every year the Aspen Institute, Music Festival, and Center for Physics draw the most talented people in the world to work together. They come, not just because their colleagues are there, but because Aspen has an elusive quality that inspires great moments.

Why the long breaks?

Think back to the conferences you’ve been to. If your experience is like ours, the parts that really stick with you happen between scheduled conference sessions, meeting new people and working with old friends. We wanted to build in time for these serendipitous moments that only happen on the side at other conferences. Also, we thought it was important that attendees have an opportunity to enjoy the natural surroundings and scenery during the best part of the day, rather than being stuck inside a darkend room with an LCD projector.

What should I do after I register?

Will I need a car?

Parking is not a problem if you have a car, but a car is not needed. Aspen is small enough that you can go almost anywhere on foot and the Meadows Resort has a shuttle that will take you to and from the airport as well as downtown Aspen. Plan to do a good deal of walking, but plan to do it slowly. The mountain air is fresh and clean. And thin.

What should I pack?

Springtime in the high Rockies has unpredictable weather. Check your favorite weather forecast and then don’t believe it. Pack to dress in layers, preparing for sunny and warm and for wet and cold. The air is thin and the altitude is high. This means the sun is stronger than you think. Bring a hat, sun glasses, and sun screen. (The altitude affects your hydration levels. Be sure to drink water regularly to avoid dehydration.)

Comfortable shoes are highly recommended as downtown Aspen is over a mile away and the shortest distance from the resort to the Physics Center is through the meadow (which may be muddy).

A flashlight will be handy when returning from late sessions.

Don’t forget to bring your business cards and laptops. There is wifi available at both the Aspen Institute and the Aspen Center for Physics, but an ethernet cable and/or thumb drive may come in handy.

What should I do when I arrive?

Stay hydrated.

Check in on the CppNow Discord #public-discussion channel to let other attendees know you’ve arrived and see what others are doing. If you’ve arrived early, you may have a chance to join a group going to eat or just hanging out at the Meadows.

What happens at registration?

Registration is scheduled for two hours and it takes all of that time.

You’ll get your badge and (usually) some swag and/or information.

Tours are organized to take first-timers around the conference campus so you’ll know where everything is.

Why does this take two hours? Because the real purpose of registration is to get acquainted or re-acquainted with other attendees. You’ll be meeting old friends and friends that you don’t know yet. Other attendees are the real reason to attend C++Now, so get started early. (Don’t wait until registration starts to show up for registration.)

Where do people socialize?

During the day, people usually go to lunch and dinner in groups. Don’t be shy. If you see a group heading out, invite yourself along.

After the evening session, the Meadows bar always attracts a crowd.

Can we hold impromptu meetings?

Of course, this is why C++Now exists. If you want to join others for an impromptu discussion, lecture, work session, or debate, please do.

When and if you do this, please feel free to use any of the meeting space at the Aspen Center for Physics. There are no other groups meeting at the Physics Center while we are here and there are plenty of offices and meeting spaces available. Please do not use any of the meeting space at The Aspen Institute (the home of Hudson Commons and Paepcke Auditorium). There may be other groups that have scheduled those rooms or they may be scheduled for use by the Institute staff.


The History of every major Galactic Civilization tends to pass through three distinct and recognizable phases, those of Survival, Inquiry and Sophistication, otherwise known as the How, Why, and Where phases. For instance, the first phase is characterized by the question ‘How can we eat?’ the second by the question ‘Why do we eat?’ and the third by the question ‘Where shall we have lunch? – Douglas Adams

We have high-carb breaks both morning and afternoon, but for meals, you are on your own.

The Meadows offers breakfast daily, as well as a new brunch menu, at Plato’s in the Walter Isaacson Center.  Some attendees head back to the Meadows for lunch or dinner to enjoy the options at Plato’s or Limeslicer’s. Many attendees also head downtown for meals.  It is at bit of a walk, but enjoyable with a group.

Some years we have a food truck at lunch and we recommend a couple of places for dinner every evening (except the night of the picnic). When dinning at a recommended spot, mention that you are at the Physics Center for a special deal (free appetizers or a discount).

This year we are doing sign ups for on-site lunches. If you think you’ll be staying at the Physics Center over lunch (to work on Library in a Week or for a lunch meeting like the meeting to learn about the Program Committee), you’ll want to sign up to have lunch delivered.

When heading to town, don’t go back to your room first, you’ll not make it back in time to the after-meal sessions. Instead, drop your laptop bag at the Center for Physics Library in Bethe Hall where it will be locked up until you return (we’ll even charge the battery for you, if you’d like).

One evening, we’ll host a picnic at the Center for Physics. Feel free to have anyone traveling with you join us.

Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so. – Douglas Adams

What are Lightning Talks?

Lightning Talks are five minutes talks that are open to any attendee. They tend to be more light-hearted than serious, but not all are light-hearted and you can give one on any subject you want to talk about. You can wait until you arrive at the conference to ask to give one. (Some talks are in response to a keynote or other talk at the conference.) When you know that you’d like to speak and what you’d like to speak about, send an email with your talk title to the Lightning Talk Chair.

What if I can’t decide what sessions to attend?

Then we’ve done our job. If there is only one talk you want to see in any timeslot, then we’d be disappointed in ourselves (and surprised). That is why we record all our sessions and put them on our YouTube channel. You can also find presentation slides online.

How do I give speaker feedback?

The best way to give speaker feedback at a conference as intimate as C++Now is talk with speakers about their presentation. This is a favorite subject of speakers and is likely to make more of an impression than anything else you can do.

We’ve started to use an online feedback system. Since this system is still evolving, updated information will be given at the conference welcome.

You can also give feedback using the feedback system on Sched.org. This may be an easier way to give negative feedback. Negative feedback is valuable, as long as it is constructive.

What is the planning meeting?

On the last evening of the conference, we’ll have a meeting that is the kick-off meeting for the next year’s conference.

If you’d like to share some thoughts on what the conference organizers did right or did wrong, or if you’d like to help make the conference happen, please join us.

This meeting is open to anyone and represents an opportunity to make a contribution to the C++ community.

What is the Program Committee?

The Program Committee is the group of individuals that evaluate every submission to present at C++Now.

You can find information about the role of the committee in the C++Now Program Committee Reviewers’ Guide.

Most years we have an over-lunch meeting of the Program Committee, to which we invite anyone that is interested in learning about the PC and how it works. If you plan to attend, the conference will pay for your lunch if you sign up in advance.

If you’d like to join the PC, please contact the PC Chair.

Code of Conduct

We hold attendees to this Code of Conduct. For any questions or concerns, contact our Security Team or contact Jon Kalb, our Conference Chair, directly.

What can I do to support the conference?

C++Now is a community conference and it survives because of the support of the community. You support the conference when you:

How many people get accepted and funded?

There is no fixed number. Usually four to six.

What criteria makes a successful applicant?

Not every successful application has everything that we look for, but we’d like to see C++ community engagement and intellectual interest in C++. Evidence of engagement with and interest in the C++ community might include:

  • speaking at/working on/attending C++ events such as user group meetings or conferences
  • an active GitHub (or equivalent) account that shows work in C++
  • blogging about C++ (textual, audio, or video)
  • contributing, maintaining, or reviewing open sources C++ libraries
  • tutoring in C++
  • answering C++ questions online
  • academic work focusing on C++

What will I be doing as a volunteer?

We want you to have plenty of time to attend sessions and socialize with other attendees, but you’ll have some responsibilities which will include:

  • preparing for registration
    • touring the campus–you be giving tours to first-time attendees during registration
    • assembling badges and literature handouts
  • assisting with registration
    • distributing badges
    • answering questions
    • giving tours
  • directing attendees to sessions (after the first day, everyone will know where everything is)
  • assisting with setup before and cleanup after breaks and lunch
  • monitoring sessions
    • assisting speakers with microphones, AV, water, etc.
    • holding up cards to let speakers know about time remaining and to repeat questions
    • making special announcements as required
  • assisting with setup before and cleanup after the picnic
  • running errands as requested and, in general, supporting conference operations as needed

What should I bring?

Read the Attendee FAQ. You are an attendee.

Will I get to watch sessions that I want to see?

Session assignments are done with your input and volunteers do trade assignments, so you’ll have some control over the sessions that you’ll be assigned. But all sessions need to be covered, so there will be times when you are not going to be in the session that was your first choice. You might be surprised. It may turn out that the session you enjoy the most was one that you didn’t expect.

You will be able to attend a session in every time slot; however, when you are assigned to assist with break setup/cleanup you’ll miss a few minutes at the beginning/end of the following/preceeding sessions.

Can volunteers give lightning talks?

Please do!

Do I get to interact and network with the attendees?

Absolutely. Attendees are very supportive of the Student / Volunteer Program and happy to engage with you. Plan to spend your available time socializing with other attendees.

The high ratio of speakers to attendees and long breaks make it possible to have in-depth conversations with speakers, but you’ll find that all C++Now attendees come to Aspen because they want to engage with others that are interested in learning about C++.

Will being a volunteer at C++Now be a career-altering event?

Quite likely.

What are the elements of a good submission?

  • Consider your audience. The Program Committee (PC) judges proposals based upon how interested C++Now attendees are likely to be in the content.
  • Pick a topic small enough that you can go deep in that topic, but if you are too niche, you may not attract enough interest from the PC.
  • Focus on topics about which you are knowledgeable and passionate.
  • Choose a short, punchy title that clearly states the purpose of the presentation. Clever titles can grab attention, but cutesy titles may do the opposite.
  • Try to write just one sentence to describe your presentation. As with documenting classes or functions, if you can’t boil down the description, you’re likely doing too much in one presentation.
  • Consider describing a challenge, problem, or situation you will address and then discuss how you will address or solve it.
  • Provide enough details to allow the reviewers to make an informed decision. The less well known you are to the reviewer or community, the more you have to show that you know the material, can organize a good presentation, and can interest the audience.
  • C++Now is a technical conference, so discussions of management problems, while not uncommon, are not appropriate.
  • Intentions to present on what does not yet exist increases the risk of rejection. For example, if you intend to present a library, don’t expect the PC to take on faith that you’ll create that library and a good presentation by the time of the conference.
  • Overly simplistic subjects will almost certainly be rejected.
  • Don’t underestimate your time requirements. If you are unused to technical presentations, then five minutes is a lot longer than you think and forty-five minutes is a lot shorter than you think.

Will there be a digital video projector available?


Will there be an audio system available?


Will there be a computer available?

No, please bring your own or arrange with the program committee to get access to one.

Do I have to use PowerPoint?

No. OpenOffice.org’s Impress and Apple’s Keynote are popular alternatives and there are many others.

What are some of the elements of a good presentation?

Take a look at Doug Gregor’s Google Tech Talk presentation.

Suggestions from experienced presenters include:

  • Think about who your audience is, and target your talk toward the middle of that audience. Boost users, for example, are C++-literate and can be assumed to know about Boost in general, so concentrate on the Boost library you are presenting.
  • Your audience can read, so don’t just stand there and read your slides to them. Explain the bullet points or code examples on your slides. Give the rationale behind the design. Relate new material to things they are already familiar with.
  • Do include code examples; C++ programmers often understand code examples better than prose descriptions.
  • Don’t just tell your audience what something is, tell them how to use it themselves. Show them real code.
  • Look at your audience. Make eye contact.
  • Repeat questions from the audience before answering, remember, the video audience is much bigger than the live audience, and in the video they only hear what has been repeated to microphone.
  • Involve your audience; ask them questions.

How many people will attend my session?

Given the capacity of the rooms, plan on a maximum of 100 and a minimum of 20.

How much time should I reserve for questions?

This can vary from speaker to speaker and topic to topic, but something of the order of 10 minutes for a 90-minute session. You can take questions as they arise (which we recommend), leave them until the end (or, for long sessions, just before the next break), or a mix of both, but be sure to let the audience know at the beginning if you are happy to take questions as they come or whether you prefer to leave them until the end.

If you are involving the audience by asking them questions, you should expect questions in return during the session. In taking questions during the session, try to be brief and to not get sidetracked. If a question deserves a longer answer than the flow of the material allows, or is a little off topic, say so and suggest coming back to it either at the end or offline.

How can I tell how long my presentation will take?

It depends on the amount of detail on each slide, the amount of time allowed for questions, any time budgeted for demos, and, of course, the typical slide velocity of the presenter. It is worth rehearsing all or part of your presentation to get a sense of the timing. Different presenters have different average slide velocities: some presenters use only a few slides, and move to a new slide once every few minutes or so; others move through their slides at a much more rapid rate. Work out where you are on this scale and determine a slide limit based on the duration of your session divided by your typical slide velocity.

Compared to other technical conferences, speakers tend to cover less material at C++Now because of the enhanced level of audience engagement.

Can I compile/run stuff, or must everything be on slides?

Running compiles or demos can add interest, but be very sure the app will work! Live demos are notorious failure points. There is nothing sadder than attending a presentation designed around a live demo that the presenter can’t get working.

What material should I provide to be distributed to attendees?

At the minimum, provide a PDF file of your slides.

Must I stay in the conference hotel?

No, although part of the fun and benefits of a conference come from offline interactions with attendees in informal settings such as the hotel bar. 🙂

When should I plan to arrive?

At a minimum, please plan to arrive the day before your session, and allow plenty of leeway for travel delays (and possible jet lag). Of course we hope you will come for the entire conference, and leave some time to enjoy the spectacular setting.

How do I submit my slides?

Please send a PDF of your main progam slides to the conference archivist at speaker-files@cppnow.org. Please send a PDF of your lightning talk slides to lightning@cppnow.org.

What else should I know?

Please read the Presenter Infomation page and contact the conference’s Speaker Liaison with any questions.