One conference goer’s reflections on the 2016 tech conference season

The year is nearly over (to great relief of many, I presume) and so is the conference season. This was my second year of (planned) speaking at conferences. I still enjoy going to them for 3 reasons: delivering value, getting value, and meeting awesome people around the world.

This post is a collection of my personal notes on what I was up to, and areas to improve in the following year.

The beginnings

I started in 2015, by speaking at the Big Android BBQ in Amsterdam, CodeMotion Tel Aviv, and giving a lightning talk at Devoxx in London with the one and only Mr Nic Jackson.

That year I gave three different talks at three conferences. I spoke about Android testing frameworks twice, and once about architecting Android apps. That was a big mistake, having to redesign and prep the slides each and every single time. Sleepless nights galore!

2016 in numbers

I’ve attended 7 conferences and countless meetups, of which I spoke at 5 conferences and 1 meetup in 5 countries. I gave 2 different talks on 2 separate topics. I’ve used 2 apps to prepare the slides — Keynote and Deckstet — you can read my rant about them here. I represented 2 of my employers — Pusher, my current employer and M&S, my previous one.

Poking the screen

Content-wise I’ve learned from last year and decided to have more focus with my talks, and re-use the content multiple times, adding only incremental improvements. I gave 2 different talks this year:

The 2 conferences I attended in the audience were The Lead Developer London and GDG Devfest London. I also missed out on 1 conference — DevRelCon London, due to a clash in deadlines, although I bought a ticket.

And for some even weirder numbers — I’ve given 3 talks in 3 days between the Tokyo Android Meetup (Thursday 24 November) and CodeMotion Milan (Friday 25 & Saturday 26 November), which was coincidentally also wrapping up my 3rd week at Pusher, bringing my then-average to an all-time high of 52 talks per year of employment (pro rated obviously).

That ratio has gone down since then, obviously.

The takeaways

  • I had an outline prepared with the flow when I was writing the talk on policy. That worked surprisingly well.
  • I also had a lot more prep for my policy talk than I had for the Testing Support Lib talk in some instances. Prep makes for interesting and cohesive talks. Prep is good.
  • Code in slides is bad. It doesn’t work. Unless you animate it like Jake Wharton. I’ve learned it also kind of works if you talk about it and then just leave it in the slides for people to refer to later when slides are published.
  • There is a limit on the number of times the same talk can be delivered. They can easily get stale and/or boring and need to be refreshed. How long a talk can work, or how many times you can refresh it depends on the nature of the talk. The policy talk takes a lot of the content current happenings and is therefore much easier to keep interesting, whereas the support library talk can only change when the underlying library updates.

The plans for 2017

But hey, 2017 is nearly here. I have a new job now. I’m no longer building apps — I mostly work on libraries and SDKs now. I also no longer focus on Android, as started doing some iOS/Swift work as well.

I will be producing content focused on library development and API design, and connecting communities. I will also keep my policy talk, refreshing it with new content relevant to our industry and the global happenings in the following year.

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