Tuesday, 11 October 2022

You Should Speak at Conferences. #JoelKallmanDay

 Conferences are Great - you should go (and Speak)

Instead of some geek-content, This is a call-to-speakers. The trigger for this post is two-fold: 1) the Joel-Kallman-Day inititative from Tim Hall, and 2) the fact that some IT conferences are still searching for relevant, new/local speakers.


Conferences are Great, and You Should go + Speak! 

Conferences are for getting out of the (home)office, to discuss topics, meet people, and  learn new things, ideas, concepts, trends. And for the food+drink, although that varies from place to place.

And the best way to get to a conference is ... to do a Presentation.

Especially when I had to "ask my boss", it would always Greatly help if I could say: "I'm Speaking at XYZ, can you please budget the trip+time" (maybe more on that later).

So... What to Speak about?

Here is one of my best 3-step tricks to find a topic:

1. Find the biggest Obstacle you had at work in the last 12 months (e.g. learning python, creating K8s pods, Designing your Datamodel, arguing with your architect..). That can be your Topic.

2. Now write down what you want to Tell / Warn / Laugh to others about (The Quirks of Python, Yaml/Ansible-syntax, how to manipulate the architect). This will be your "Message".

3. Turn that into slides notably with a clear Conclusion. Give your listeners a "Take Home Lesson" at the end. (I do max 25 slides, but your style may vary).

There you are!

My reasoning behind this is multiple: 

First, you will be a better speaker if you have a grain of Passion, a Mission. Something you Really Want to Communicate. And even better: something you have Experienced Yourself. 

Secondly, you probably were not the only one with whatever challenge you had. Others will have been in the same situation and will recognise it. Those will be your Audience, and they will spark the discussion afterwards.

Thirdly: Because you are "On a Mission" to convey your learnings, you will be better motivated, and you will more easily overcome any stage-fright your may have.

There is more to speaking, but  you will learn in the process of Doing! 

A good source of information is also the MASH program (link). And there are the practicalities, things like: 

Avoid boring slides (important, but less important than Your Mission)

How to work towards the conclusion (important, but less important than your intrinsic Motivation)

Use of Clip-art and moderate humour (important, not Essential to your Message)

How to determine your Tempo, Timing. Your first presentation will run-over, that is normal, and not a problem: Organizers will keep-time, or not. And getting late to other talks is (partly) the problem of the audience. Truly Motivated listeners may even remain behind, and harass you with Questions. The secret to not run over is.. a) do the presentation a few times, and b) remove irrelevant content (this can be hard - especially if you want to tell a "whole story")

Note: running-over is Totally Impolite because it creates problems for audience, for other speakers, and for organizers. If an experienced speaker goes over time, you can tell him off. But every beginner-speaker should be allowed to run-over (once, just once :-) ). If a "sales-pitch-speaker" runs over time: Ban Him (that is 99% of cases a him) and Shame his Product.

Oh, and about that food+drink: After the event, tell the organizers how good or bad their catering was. Some will learn, some wont.

Now go out and Enjoy!

footnote: Another reason to Re-Shout this message is that, notably in the Ora-sphere, and in some of the dev-rel oriented conferences, the nr of speakers seems to decrease,` and I see a lot of "habitu├ęs" and company-sponsored professional Dev-Rel ppl  (pre-sales in disguise) repeating their messages. Some are Great People, and I love to discuss with them, but some others are ... 

foot-footnote: (deleted, too Rant-ty, NSFW)