Why should I speak at conferences?
Well, I cannot answer that question for you personally, but I can tell you a bit about my journey and hopefully get you to ask yourself the question.
I first spoke at a conference in 2013, so why did I do it? Sometimes I think it was pure stupidity but I have also always enjoyed a challenge. By submitting to conferences, I forced myself to advance old skills and acquire new ones, both technical and non technical.
As most of us have experienced computers play up, so even the basics of connecting your computer and getting the presentation to display on the screen can be challenge enough but I mean more than that. To deliver my talks, I have read countless articles and books, I have devised activities and exercises that convey particular points, strengthened and consolidated my understanding of technologies and developed code to illustrate certain aspects of the talks.
On top of these demands of a talk, I have also had to acquire various other capabilities, from writing a submission, planning and scheduling a talk or workshop, speaking to people for the first time and delivering the talk itself. All of which are skills that I am still learning and are constantly evolving.
So how did I start submitting to conferences?
I started by choosing the conferences I wanted to submit to based on which ones I wanted to attend. As with most conferences you get entry to the conference as part of the benefit of being accepted as a speaker. This means you cannot only share your story with others; you can network and learn from others as well. Personally I chose methodology or community based conferences and development and testing ones.
To come up with submissions, first I had to tackle the question of what did I have to say that was new? Like me, you may feel that every angle has already been covered but what you bring to any topic is your story, your perspective based on your experiences and exposure, and so it is unique and that is what differentiates it.
When it comes to writing the abstract, some conferences are prescriptive about the outline for a submission, but in general you want your elevator pitch, that would entice people into your session and then clearly state the key takeaways people will leave your session with.
This for me is the biggest draw of a conference. It may not always be the talks that you chose to attend but the conversations that you have with those around you. Just the exposure to new books or ideas that you can then pursue after the conference and immersions within the community in the conference environment that energises you.
I have met some great people at conferences, people who I can use as sounding boards, those who extend my learning, challenge my assumptions, people whose books I have read and people who I am now lucky enough to genuinely class as friends.
For those who know me public speaking is up there on my list of biggest fears. I have written before about ‘Starting small and don’t fear failure”, and that is how I got started. I just gave it a go and have gone on from there. I have had an amazing journey and have attended some wonderful conferences but I like many others have also submitted to conferences and not been accepted. Don’t ever let that put you off, it is just part of the process, so keep trying.
There are so many people within the community who are happy to help with submissions or presentation skills.
If you are not sure where to start then start small, get in touch with me and we can work it out from there.
Or if you are feeling even braver then the submissions for Agile2017 are open until the 6th February 2017, what have you got to lose.