During Test:Fest conference Karolina Madej-Dempniak had a discussion panel about Perfect Tester. At some point, she asked a question “Why do you think that Perfect Tester should speak at conferences?”. My answer was fast – it is our duty to share the knowledge we have – to inspire others, to prevent them from our mistakes, to learn that we are mistaken and many more! But people in the room remained not convinced.
Therefore I decided to bring up today the reasons why I think everyone should at some point try speaking at meetups or conferences. I would also make my comment on most common heard reasons “why not”.
Why you should speak
Let me start with my personal “Why” reason – travelling. This is something I know I have in common with Dawid Pacia, but to be honest I think more speakers are interested in this benefit. Many conferences pay all speaker expenses or at least some of these expenses. This way I was able to see Romania and Serbia for the first time. Apart from travelling You will get free entry for the conference itself. This is a great opportunity to hear what is happening in the world.
Working on the topic combined with the opportunity to hear others gives You more awareness of what is happening in Your field of work. Moreover, I think that speaking is an interesting career path. You do not believe? Speaking is not that far from leadership and training others.
Not only you will get to know many great persons, that other consider experts in their field of work. Soon enough You might become one of those persons others want to meet (or at least You are recognised in the crowd).
Let us not forget about emotional implications of speaking. You gain more confidence in Yourself and Your work. Also, the satisfaction of being chosen is a very nice feeling. I think that approx. one week after I receive an email that I was accepted for some conference I feel absolutely amazing – almost like on drugs 😉
And do not forget – You can and should do it for others. For their entertainment and in hopes that they will learn something. This is why during talk or workshop preparation we think about “key takeaways”.
Most common “Why not”
Well fine, this is quite obvious that it is so nice and great to speak. So why there aren’t so many speakers around? I decided to take most common “Why not” reasons and I will try to argue them.
“It is not for me” – well, at least give it a try. Try to spend some time and effort in planning why You want to do it and preparing the story. If You feel that the gain does not cover the effort You will provide it is fine to say “not for me”. But do not say that after a failed presentation at high school or after a product demo. It is not this same!
“It is hard” – Yes, it is. But it shouldn’t stop You from doing it. They say “no pain, no gain” – it is almost this same in speaking 🙂
“I will freeze” – This is why You memorise the beginning and the end. After You start with the few sentences You learned it just goes on. Moreover, it is common to forget what was next in the presentation. Just take a sip of water, calm down and continue with the next thought. To be honest this was one of my greatest fears at the beginning. Now I am more like T’Challa:
And even if I will freeze one day I do not let it stop me from speaking 🙂
Timing issue – Some fear they will stop speaking after 15 minutes or will be interrupted suddenly in the middle of speaking with “end of time” message. Again this is a fear I experienced myself. Until I discovered tools like laser pointers with a timer. Right now I’m thinking about buying 30 minutes hourglass as they also look cool!
“I have nothing interesting to say” – The most common sentence I hear, and I do not believe it at all!
A story myth
I believe that everyone has a story. Period. How You started, your journey, how You ended up in the place You are – those are the stories. Experiences – they are the best! But like the best gemstones – they require a bit of work and cutting at the edges.
The best ideas for presentations are born in conversation. When sharing Your story with a friend or co-worker You will see what amaze them. At this same point, most bad ideas will die in conversation, as You will see what is not interesting or they may challenge You if You are wrong.
Of course, the story needs time to grow. I like to write down the raw ideas – there is about 20 of them. Then I let them take roots in my head. I talk about them, I try to write abstracts, I think about the key takeaways for the audience… This was the best idea emerge already prepared for sending in Call For Paper. Sometimes it takes months. But do not worry – it gets easier with time!
My final advice is stories over theories. IT world is so different that it is amazingly hard to come up with a new theory. Instead, we need to share our experiences – what worked for us, what did not work. Make a public retrospective. Talk loudly and publicly about things that amaze You, hurts You or are just work mentioning in hopes that it will help others be better at their job.