Wednesday, January 25, 2012

You can speak at a conference too

As I blogged earlier, my resolution this year is to be a public speaker. One of the difficulties in breaking into the speaking circuits is to be aware of conferences six months in advance to meet the call for participation deadlines, so whenever I hear about one, I share it with others.

Recently I shared the call for participation for FluentConf:

Are you a JavaScript performance guru? Have you got big ideas and mad JavaScript skills? Do you know the ins and outs of future ECMAScript specifications? Are you building or using new languages on top of the JavaScript runtime? Have you tied Node.js into beautiful knots to build out your app’s back end? Are you pushing WebGL to its limits? If so, we strongly encourage you to send in a proposal to speak at Fluent 2012!

Someone responded that she was not guru enough to speak, so she will just attend. This is so not true! I strongly believe that everyone has something to share, and we can all make the world a better place by contributing what we know. Estelle Weyl put it much more eloquently:

Realize that many people speaking at conferences aren't gurus at all. They just feel comfortable enough in a single sub-topic to present on that topic. Realize, if someone knows your topic like the back of their hand, they're not going to attend your session. Instead, they'll attend a session where the material is new.


Please, please, please submit talks in the niches you feel comfortable in. If all women wait until they master every nuance of their primary programming language we likely would have even fewer female presenters. If, in general, men waited for complete mastery too, we likely wouldn't have enough presenters to have conferences.

Read the full post here.

I reached out to O'Reilly to let them know that their call for participation is too intimating for first-timers, and they added an extra paragraph in response:

New to the speaking circuit? Never fear, we want to hear from you too! We’re actively seeking new voices and off-the-beaten-path topics to put on stage at Fluent. Any ideas, best practices, challenges, etc. that you’ve encountered and conquered are fair game—if it’s important to you, it’s probably important for others as well.

This captures the spirit of conferences much better - you are there to share your stories. Think through your day. Did you fix a particularly nasty bug? You got a story. Did you scout all over the internet and finally figured out how to implement that feature you wanted? You got a story. Did you chain up two seemingly unrelated tools and came up with a solution to your problem? You got a story.

Take the stage and share your stories. The world will thank you.


Inline coding questions will not be answsered. Instead, ask on StackOverflow and put the link in the comment.

  1. Good luck on your speaking adventures. I started breaking into the scene almost 2 years ago. It is very slow to get started, but once you have momentum, and a helpful, positive attitude, then the sky is the limit. Have a great story to tell. Best of luck.

    Brock Patterson @BrockPatterson

  2. Thank you for encouraging words, Brock! I'd love to hear your story of getting on the speaking circuit.

  3. So true!
    Another point: when people in the audience ask questions, it's fine to say "I don't know." Chances are, someone else in the audience will know, and then you get to learn something. If that doesn't work, you can say "I'll find out and get back with you."

    Recommendations to find out about conferences:
    1) Ask for mentorship. Get someone already on the speaking circuit looking out for opportunities that fit you.
    2) Follow on twitter people who are speaking at the conferences you'd like to speak at someday, and organizers, and the conferences themselves.
    3) Go to local user groups and talk to the speakers. (this is a great way to find a mentor.)

    1. Thanks for the tips, Jessica!

      Looking like you've been on the speaking circuit for a while. May I ask you to be my mentor?