Musings About Speaking

A year ago, speaking at conferences wasn’t something that I thought I was qualified to do. But then I saw the MakerFaire call for presenters and thought — hey, why not?

I gave my first talk at a technical conference in September 2014, at MakerFaire. Since then, I’ve successfully applied to, and spoken at, a bunch of other conferences. I’ve focused on two main topics (ReactJS, and the Javascript work I do professionally at Codecademy; and my personal Arduino and musical programming projects). It’s been a real blast; I’ve been able to visit places from Silicon Valley to Rotterdam, and met plenty of cool people along the way.

My talk from Maker Faire NYC, 2014.

It’s now been about half a year since I’ve started speaking. Some things I’ve learned:

It’s easier than I expected. I get nervous — until I get on stage. Turns out that practice really does make things easier.

There are lots of CFPs to apply to! Thanks to resources like Technically Speaking and @CallbackWomen, I’ve been able to find lots of conferences that I’d love to attend, and speak at.

You’re totally qualified to speak. If it’s a field that you spend plenty of time thinking about (aka, if it’s your job / hobby / etc), you probably have something to say that lots of people would find interesting. We are all awesome.

It’s a great way to meet people. I’ve had wonderful conversations at the conferences I’ve attended, and learned so much.

It can lead to awesome things. Speaking has exposed me to opportunities I wouldn’t otherwise have had, like writing with InfoQ.

Conference organizers are real people. Everyone I’ve interacted with has been friendly, helpful, and welcoming, even when my proposals get rejected. They also do a ton of work — putting together a conference is no small feat.

Basically? It’s been a great experience, and I can’t wait to do more speaking as the year goes on. A huge thanks are in order to Chiu-Ki Chan and Cate Huston, whose newsletter (Technically Speaking) is one of the main reasons I submitted to my first conference to begin with.