I recently travelled to Kitchener, Canada, to speak at Targeting Quality 2016, a great little conference with a good range of speakers and topics. Going to conferences is a good way to learn and expand your network, and if you go to one as a speaker, there are a few more benefits –besides the obvious one of not having to buy a ticket!
After doing your talk, there’s usually a Q&A session–but you’ll often find that after that, when you’re tidying away your material, there will be other people wanting to talk to you.
And after that, when you’re at other sessions or on a break, people will recognize you and start conversations. This is useful if you’re shy, but even if you’re not, you’ll find that the people talking to you have a connection to your talk. It’s great for getting feedback and for exploring your subject in greater depth.
Having to prepare a talk can help you reveal to yourself how well (or not) you know the topic. If you’re struggling to explain a topic or can’t explain why you chose a tool/language/framework, it may be an indication that you should be thinking more deeply about the subject you are talking about.
The closing keynote from Karen Johnson was very interesting. I now have a copy of Orbiting the Giant Hairball to read after her recommendation, and I have been thinking about one comment she made during her talk.
She said that speaking at a conference has made her a better consultant–she went from being a shy introvert hiding in the cubicle at the back of the room to being a keynote speaker. Having to prepare a talk and then give it in front of a room full of people has given her confidence and practice, so she is well prepared for going into a meeting and talking with a few people.
It can seem a huge daunting leap to go from being a conference attendee to a conference speaker, but the rewards are there if you do. Find a small local conference where you can start (or do a talk in front of your company), and then think about going national.