Written by Anna Shur-Wilson
Speaking at technical conferences has many professional and personal benefits, such as establishing yourself as an expert in your field, becoming a role model for early-career technologists, and gaining confidence in your perspective.
If you are beginning your journey to public speaking and feel overwhelmed by the different opportunities and strategies, you’re not alone. In today’s blog, we’ll share tips on how to forge your path into being a public speaker at conferences and engagements.
All Communication is Practice
If you are new to public speaking, such as conferences or speeches, you may think you don’t have much experience in this area. But, consider all the times in your day-to-day life when you have to communicate your perspective with others — meetings, presentations, volunteering, networking, etc. Reflect on when you communicate with stakeholders professionally and personally and think of it as practice for public speaking.
When thinking about a potential conference topic or talk, you can build upon your discussions with colleagues. Volunteering is another excellent way to practice your public speaking skills. Also, when you train others in best practices, you can interrogate and improve your methods.
Network and Conduct Research at Conferences
Attend conferences regularly to gain inspiration from your peers. Make a note of any talks where the presenter’s speaking style connected with you. Review conference programs you enjoyed and gained great information while in attendance, and explore what made them great. Notice any gaps in topics or an angle you can add for ones that could’ve been better.
During and after attending conferences, connect with the organizers and speakers. Building your professional relationships with them, you may learn more about conferences and the topics review committees are interested in, including topics the organizers wish they had received.
Conferences receive hundreds — if not thousands — of submissions for very few speaking slots. Every year, some topics are trendier than others (like AI and ChatGPT in 2023!), so you can be confident that organizers are getting a lot of submissions on these topics. Submitting a trendy topic is risky unless you are incredibly passionate, knowledgeable and can bring a unique perspective that will add value to the audience.
Don’t Give Up
You might not get invited to speak at every conference you apply to. Don’t give up! Continue to apply and ask for peer and mentor feedback. Being rejected is often unrelated to your submission, but the conference has already filled its schedule with similar talks or topics. Apply as early as possible to avoid this from happening.
When organizers create a conference schedule, they consider individual talks and the entire program — the schedule tells a story, flows, and a point of view. Understanding this is helpful when starting your public speaking journey, and why attending conferences and networking is essential. Continue connecting with your community in the tech industry, and define your niche and point of view.
Check out WWCode’s CFP resource library for more tips on submitting a talk proposal for WWCode CONNECT conferences, WWCode Dev Summits, or other organizations.