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This post is aimed toward all the conference speakers and mentors out there that just happen to read my blog (I don't know how many of you are out there). I have a question that is burning at me. What is the best way to get into speaking? I really, really want to become a speaker/mentor but am unsure the best way to go about “breaking into” the area. Is it something that happens by luck? Is there something I can proactively do to help it happen? Or should I just keep on trying to do cool stuff in development and hope that some day my “voice” is heard by someone in a position to hook me up? ANY advice would be MUCH appreciated. Thanks :)!

Posted on Tuesday, March 23, 2004 3:28 PM | Back to top


Comments on this post: Dear Speakers

# re: Dear Speakers
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You do, of course, mean besides working for a company which actively promotes it's internal speaking talent (like Microsoft, Yahoo and MySQL AB)?

Beyond that, a general level of visibility is key. A large percentage of conference speakers are approached either by companies to represent technologies at a conference, or by conference organizers.

Another large percentage (sorry, no figures here) actively market themselves to conference organizers. I've never really been fond of this myself, but it does work.

Above and beyond anything else, know what your'e talking about, get involved in communities, write articles, contribute to books (especially technical editing if you can) and increase your visibility.

Whether you choose to market yourself actively or passively, a high level of visibility is required, if only to verify that you do in fact know what you're talking about.
Left by Jeremy C. Wright on Mar 23, 2004 5:22 PM

# re: Dear Speakers
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I agree with Jeremy on his points. I'd add the following:

a. Just do it. Put yourself out there as a speaker for the topics you know well and offer to go out and talk about them. (I do a good chunk of that)

b. Consider toastmasters. Ok, so its a little corny at times and isn't exactly the kind of speaking we do as technologists. The best thing it offers though is networking.
Left by ktegels on Mar 23, 2004 6:37 PM

# re: Dear Speakers
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I've spoken at two major conferences, was invited to a panel on another one, all on pretty divergent subjects, and all on my own....

Not to brag, but the way I did it was by dabbling in very cutting edge, little known things at the time (this is all hindsight btw). I wrote how-to articles for websites (for free) and released code and unique little applications of the concepts as projects. Then I wrote up a nice proposal and submitted it when the conference did their call for papers (most public conferences have these). I was a speaker at the Open Source Convention in 2000 (for PHP, before the first PHP conference), and for a SANS conference in 2001 (for web hacking). In 2003 I was invited to Instant Messaging Planet as a panelist for an IM bot I released as an open source project. I addressed plenty of smaller groups, but that was more of a for-fun thing to me.

Now all that was for more of the open source world, which admittedly is a bit more chaotic and free from boundaries than MS conferences, but I'm sure the same principles apply. Learn something new that few people know well, but that you know will be much more important in the future, and that there are hardly any books in the bookstore on, if any at all. Show your expertise by writing articles about it. Write code and release it free to the world (gasp) so those you wish to mentor get a huge head start. Write a good call for paper proposal with links to everything you did. Chances are you will fill an expertise hole and get a nod.

It really is that easy.. though it can be hard work slogging closer to the bleeding edge, where as a rule any documentation you come across you have to write yourself... then again, for some it's a lifestyle choice :)

For more mainstream subjects i don't know, though i would guess that due to the number of experts out there (many, many more) it may be harder to get a foot in the door. You may need to know someone to get a chance.

One thing is for sure though.. almost every speaker without exception is a prolific writer on their subject of choice, with dozens of articles in some cases. So that's a place to start.
Left by Duncan Lamb on Mar 23, 2004 10:01 PM

# re: Dear Speakers
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In Pakistan we have had few technical events I mean like events where talks are about the implmentation rather the academic crap.

I got into speaking by utmost determination, Had to go on and volunteer for speechs at different universties and events in Pakistan, I also went all the way to Dubai for a speech.

Today I have no public speaking fears, the reason is just a that by doing all the volunteer work I have learned to trust me, when I don;t know something I am honest.

In our field no matter how much you know the other person knows 5 times more then you and remember thats the other way round too.

Its so huge in its own way that no one persoan can master every thing, even if he does its obsolete by then. You don't have to stay on the edge, just stick to what you like doing best. Thats it. I do that, I only speak on stuff which I am dead sure and passionate about.

Your best talks can come out of things you do daily, a problem you had and the solution you came up with, start at your local User Group. By the way I have read your writtings and they are really cool. You have deep insight.

Good Luck and Keep us updated!
Left by Rai Umair on Mar 24, 2004 8:03 AM

# re: Dear Speakers
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I see you really inspited by Chriss Sells (i see got into the highiqsociety too), no dount he's a software legend and you can be one to.

Just follow you heart and yes download presentations and recorded events from Microsoft's website. I will send you the link soon as I can't find it right now but thats the best place for sure.
Left by Rai Umair on Mar 24, 2004 8:08 AM

# re: Dear Speakers
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Thanks everyone for the feedback, I really appreciate it.

Rai, thanks also for the compliments and encouragement. It means a lot to hear that from a fellow developer :).
Left by Jason Olson on Mar 24, 2004 9:15 AM

# re: Dear Speakers
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1) Start yelling "The world is going to end tomorrow" on your friendly neighborhood street corner

Eventually someone will buy into it and let you speak at their "The world is ending tomorrow" seminars.

All kidding aside you could actually speak on your game development articles whether you know it or not. The only problem is finding the audience that is willing to hear what you have to say.

I think if you keep cranking out your game development articles that someone will be willing to listen to them being spoken instead of having to read the articles for themselves. The other cool part about speaking is that you can actually say more than your code expresses or give insights as to why you think the way you think.

I guess the important part is that you've publically expressed the fact that you're available for speaking arrangements. You may want to go a step further and place some kind of contact information specifically for your public speaking somewhere on this blog or on another web site (if you have one).

This blog pretty much tells me where your expertise lies: Game development. If you want to portray some other expertise then you'll probably need to have more articles on that than for gaming. You may want to post a link to a page that gives the exact things you can easily and redily speak on. That is entirely up to you but I believe that when you make it obvious on your site(s) that people will start to flock towards it.
Left by Jeremy Brayton on Mar 24, 2004 12:58 PM

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