Get Started with Conference Speaking

I got started with conference speaking last year and I’d like to share with you my experience. Many thanks to Chiu-Ki Chan and Technically Speaking for helping me get started, and to all the women and men who helped me with my talks. I hope you find my story helpful in getting you started with conference speaking!

Women Techmakers Seattle Summit 2016

Why speak at conferences?

Speaking at conferences is a great way to share your knowledge. You will be surprised at how much you can learn when researching your talk topics. It’s also a great opportunity to network with other professionals in your field, make new friends, get exposure and publicity, and build your leadership skills.

How I got started

I got started with speaking at conferences with Chiu-Ki Chan’s grass-root campaign to bring more women speakers to Droidcon New York 2015. I was fortunate to get help with writing my first conference proposal. I submitted to a few conferences and it was accepted by AnDevCon. I gave my first conference talk at AnDevCon San Francisco 2015. I gave quite a few talks since then, and really enjoy it as a rewarding experience.

How you can get started

Start out speaking in front of a smaller audience such local meetups. Hackathons and DevFests often give you opportunities for a few minute pitch. Once you get the practice on speaking, you will be more comfortable speaking in front of a larger audience such as at a tech conference. Also building up a speaking profile will help you get selected when submitting your proposal to conference, as mentioned below.

Talk proposal

I already had some speaking experience from organizing meetups and teaching Android at University of Washington. Speaking at conferences is different though. First you need to write and submit a proposal, hoping it gets accepted.

protip Pick a topic you feel passionate about and research what topics the conference might be interested in.

The most important parts of the proposal include the talk abstract and your biography. Your talk abstract needs to clearly communicate what the audience would get out of your talk. Your bio should be somewhat relevant to your talk. It’s also very helpful to include your social media and a speaking profile. Chiu-Ki Chan has an excellent video on this — How to write a Conference Proposal.

A speaking profile is very important for the event organizer to evaluate your speaking experience. Read Chiu-Ki Chan’s blog Speaking Profile to get a better idea on what is a speaking profile and how to maintain one. I maintain mine by using Github page and Lanyard.

Travel expenses

Conferences typically gives the speaker a free pass to the conference. In general you will need to cover your own travel expenses but some conferences might cover some travel expenses. It’s always worth to ask. Even as an attendee, you may be able to find help. For example, when I attended DroidCon New York, I got support from the Intel Sponsorship for Female Developers Program.Your company might be willing to pay for the expenses if you are representing your employer at the conference.

Social media and blogging

I didn’t start to use Twitter until I started speaking at conferences. I realized that many speakers use twitter to connect with their audience after their talks. I also like to take photos of others talks and put them on Twitter. I find Twitter as the most effective way to stay connected with friends and connections that I make at conferences. If you are not sure how to use Twitter, read this great blog by Annyce Davis on Tackling Twitter.

Blogging and speaking at conferences go hand in hand. Sometimes I write a blog about my experience and what I learned from the conference. I encourage you to write a blog whether you gave a talk at a conference or went as an attendee. This is a great way to share your knowledge and experience.

Helpful Resources

Here are some resources that helped me -

At a recent Google Developer Group (GDG) Seattle meetup, I gave a short talk Get Started with Conference Speaking. I included the deck below -

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