This post is for those of you scared or reluctant to present at meetups and conferences:
Speak up! We’d like to listen to you.
You do important and interesting things
I believe that every software developer encountered some interesting problem to solve during her/his career. There are so many stories to be told. I would like to listen to those stories, I would like to discuss with people in my industry more. Sharing experience is the first step and probably the most important.
We work in an environment requiring constant learning, simply capturing this process can be beneficial to others. It can save time by avoiding future mistakes, it shows what is worth learning as well.
Speaking experts, speaking beginners
Experts or creators may be not the best speakers. I have seen presentations delivered by software framework creators or subject matter experts that were simply boring. Additionally there were on the level anybody could present. Being an expert doesn’t mean your presentation will be the most interesting and/or informational.
On the other hand, I have attended presentations given by people only using some technology (sometimes not even extensively) but who could present it in a way the first thing I wanted to do after leaving the room, was to open my notebook and start playing with it.
However if you want to be an expert, you don’t have to be an expert on general software development and life, you can find yourself a tiny topic you’d be good at. You can be the expert on this tiny thing. Still I’d be interested in listening to your story.
Being a beginner has the advantage of knowing beginner problems and most of your audience will be beginners, that’s why they attend your presentation – they want to learn something they’re not so familiar with. You can share “how it’s like” to start working with particular technology, your personal gut feeling about it. Your honesty and genuineness will give your audience a confidence to ask questions, not always appearing while listening to an expert.
There’s no them, there’s only us
Looking at conference lineups few years ago I was pretty sure there are only book writers, framework inventors and other famous people presenting. I realized in the meantime that they’re full of people like me – doing their job, learning new things, getting excited by some, wanting to share this with others. I have attended more and more presentations done by people learning some technology just like me and it was really good to listen to their stories.
Can I present my subjective opinion? Of course! There’s no one authoritative way of doing things… almost never. You don’t have to be afraid of being wrong, the worst thing which can happen is – people will correct you and you will learn from it. Bad deal?
Your audience is your friend
Are you nervous? Don’t worry, it’s normal. Remember experts? They’re stressed as well. Everybody has to overcome it. Sometimes it disappears magically after some time. Sometimes you have to do some tricks to overcome it but satisfaction after leaving it behind you is priceless.
You learn a lot
You raise the bar, learning for yourself is one thing, learning so that other people can benefit changes the game a bit. Don’t be afraid of this effect, no matter how much you learn – you won’t learn everything. It’s good to broaden your knowledge but the simple fact of thinking about your audience is enough most of the time.
Stimulating the community
Community is everywhere, I bet it is in your city as well, Speaking at local meetup, local conference is one of the ways to stimulate this community. It gives it opportunity to discuss things, it makes it better.
I’m there trying to attend as much as I can, I’d love to listen to you!
It all has been presented already
Even if it’s true (which it isn’t – it hasn’t been presented yet if it hasn’t been presented by you) – what’s wrong with that? You’re presenting your own view to the particular audience in a particular place at a particular time. It cannot be repeated and you don’t know yet what discussion will you bring after (which can be even more beneficial than the talk itself). You don’t know that before you try.
Think about your community once again, there’s really a lot of value in doing a talk at local meetup or conference because this is dedication of your time and effort to this group. I will appreciate if you come to my place and talk to me about the stuff you’re interested in. It’ll be more valuable than watching this online and search for the best of the talks on this subject. I’d like to listen to your point of view. I’d like to discuss it with you and others in this group.
What am I doing among all these men?
Women – you’re still underrepresented in our industry. It doesn’t mean you have to be underrepresented at local meetups or conferences. It’ll be great to listen to you!
Try out conferences too, I’ve been to many – they’re full of great people and the atmosphere can be really amazing. Don’t hesitate to send your proposals to conference “Call For Papers”.
Men – if you have girl friend who is reluctant to speak in public – please tell her that you’d like to listen to her, let us be at least two wanting more women at meetups and conferences!
You have to spend a lot of hours in preparation and practice. There’s no other way but it pays off. There is a significant difference between speakers preparing for the talk and those who treat it a bit lightly. There are very few speakers with such an enormous talent they don’t have to prepare. Most of the brilliant talks I’ve listened to were the result of practicing… a lot!
It’s time for You
Now it’s time for you so go ahead and submit your proposals!
Hopefully see you there!