Conference Speaker 101
HOW IT ALL STARTED
One year ago, I set a goal for myself: Speaking at (at least) one conference.
Together with my company OpenValue and my emotional and substantive support Roy Braam we excitedly took on this challenge. I opened my laptop and tried to write the first drafts of talks. I didn’t feel comfortable enough to write some technical talks.
“These guys (yes, that is what my brain already thought: guys) studied computer science and are so much more senior, what can I bring?! I will be a failure if I try to compete with them on technical topics, I rather stay with the topics that are close to me.”
So, the first topics came out:
- Wired, a talk that overlaps the field of Linguistics with IT. Which made sense because I graduated as a Speech and Language Therapist.
- Hooray I’m stuck, a talk that celebrates failure for personal growth. A topic very close to my heart because I’ve struggled with performance anxiety quite a lot. (Still haven’t performed this talk anywhere though).
- And finally, Plugin and Play, a talk on Kotlin Plugins. That last topic was pretty new to me, but I felt I needed to have at least one topic that could be perceived as a technical talk. And talking about plugins gave me enough security and structure to hold on to.
In January 2022 I applied for 7 conferences. Only to be accepted at one: #KotlinDevDay. The rejections felt hard but nonetheless I was happy that I got accepted to one. It seemed that I would reach my goal of speaking at one conference!
GETTING UP TO SPEED
Because I was speaking at KotlinDevDay my support system (OpenValue mainly) arranged that I could speak at a meet-up and a JUG night. The first meet-up was recorded, as well as my attendance to KotlinDevDay. Before long I was invited to speak at #JSpring.
Meanwhile the time had come to sign up for new talks in the conference autumn season. Still, I felt uncertain about the technical contribution I could deliver. I created a new (people) talk that I’m very passionate about: Co-creation with UX and Software. A talk I was happily allowed to do with my brilliant co-speaker Thamar Swart.
With my experience of an acceptance rate of 14%, I enthusiastically applied again for many conferences. But unlike the first time, I now got accepted to most of them: Voxxed Days Athens, Voxxed Days Cluj Napoca, Devoxx Belgium, Codeweek and J-Fall. An incredible success rate of 71%. With disbelieve and so much gratitude I went on this adventure.
Now, almost a year after I set this goal, I’ve spoken at 3 meetups and 7 conferences, even some abroad. I am flabbergasted and so grateful. But even though I am surprised of the end result, I can’t say that it just happened by accident. Looking back, it was a clear algorithm:
- Set a clear goal
- Put in the work and hours
- Don’t quit when you get rejected
- Find yourself a great mentor
- Surround yourself by a warm support system
- Get motivated by the amazing speaker community
- And stick to topics that feel like you
Are you passionate about something? Do you want to do something new? Are you waiting for someone to give you a sign? This is your cue! Go, challenge yourself. Find people around you to support you, and most importantly: believe in your own capabilities! You will surprise yourself!
Hopefully I will even see you in the speaker lounge somewhere in the world! 😉
Fun fact: After a year I even feel comfortable enough to start creating more tech talks. So be ready to catch me somewhere next season!