Attending Conferences and Public Speaking

Public speaking is something that many people fear, for a variety of reasons. Even though a lot of hard work, determination, and hours of practice go into public speaking at conferences. It really can give your career that much needed boost that you were wishing for.

First of all, lets discuss why attending conferences in the first place can greatly help you in your career. Attending conferences is a great way to network and to learn from the most experienced people in the industry.

  1. Networking – A big reason to go to conferences is to meet with likeminded people and peers in the industry. At a conference will be ale to get together with people from a wide range of backgrounds, of whom you may not encounter at your home workplace or everyday life.

  2. Expanding your knowledge – You will hear a lot about things that may be new to you. You will be hearing from potentially some of the biggest names in your field, in addition to some of the newest faces in it. Attending conferences gives you the opportunity to talk to these people one-on-one about what they’re working on, and they can give you advice on how to enhance your own career.

  3. Presenting your ideas and working with others – This is one of the more obvious reasons for attending conferences: to present your work. It’s good practice in talking about what you do with a variety of people from similar or related areas of development. Presenting will make you more confident about the work that you do and can give you a new perspective about your work as people may ask questions that make you think about your project differently. At a conference you have the opportunity to get feedback on your work from people who have never seen it before and may provide new insight.

  4. “Sharpening the Saw” – The idea of sharpening the saw basically means that sometimes you have to take a break from the “work” of your work to sharpen your skills. When you leave a conference, the likelihood is that you have come away with new ideas and approaches to things that make you more effective and efficient at work.

  5. Learning in a new space and breaking out of your comfort zone – It’s a reason why so many businesses have meetings off site, because it’s easy to find ourselves in a rut. Sitting in the same chair or the same office can keep us from fresh thinking and new ideas. For many of us live events, and other people can be a challenge. But breaking out of our comfort zones is exactly the type of action you need to break out of old ways of thinking that have got you in a rut. (If you’re absolutely terrified of the idea of going alone, bring a wingman – or wingwoman)

Top Tip: Some conferences can be expensive to attend, you can find good ones that aren’t too heavy on the bank balance, but if you can get your employer to fund you going partially or even fully to a conference then this could be an amazing benefit to you. If you offer to make training documents and even present the knowledge you learn at the conference to the rest of your team this could make your employer more likely to agree as there are getting the benefits from this without paying for everyone on the team to go. (It can also give you a good first chance to practice speaking in front of your team)

Now that you know why attending conferences in general can vastly help your career, what is the purpose of becoming a speaker yourself at these conferences and how can this enhance your career?

If you can conquer the fear of speaking at a conference then this will bring you huge benefits:

  • Building your reputation and brand, getting your name out there.

  • Although speaking at a conference doesn’t reach the same amount of people as social media or a successful blog, the connection that you will have with that audience will be stronger due to the more personal approach of this medium.

  • Once you have done public speaking for a while and your name gets known as a speaker, you can earn money from being booked to speak at large conferences. For a lot of developers this is a huge way of getting an extra income.

  • It can also provide you with a unique opportunity to get in front of potential clients, demonstrating your knowledge as an expert that they may want to hire.

  • Building credibility. When it comes to speaking at industry-level conferences about a particular subject, it automatically helps in building credibility because it shows that you are well-versed on the topic of your speech.

How do you even get started?

Making sure you know as much as you can about what you want to speak about. This may seem obvious but the more knowledgeable you are on your chosen subject, the easier talking about it will be. You can ask/offer to present your knowledge at work. This will get you some great experience in speaking to a crowd without it being as scary as speaking to complete strangers. Ask for honest and constructive feedback, you’re more likely to get this from your friends and colleagues than you are strangers.

Once you’ve had some practice and you feel slightly more confident in speaking you can apply to talk at things like code camps as pretty much anyone can apply. This will give you more practice and the opportunity to take that next step of talking to a room of strangers.

You will not be the best public speaker the first time you try! The best and most renowned public speakers did not get there from only speaking once. Don’t be afraid of stuttering, forgetting what you wanted to say, or even sweating profusely in front of everyone just because you were so nervous. This probably will happen but that doesn’t mean you should give up and decide that you aren’t a good public speaker. It is something that will take time and practice!

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