This week marked the 1-year anniversary of my joining ThoughtWorks. It’s a wonderfully unique culture. Despite the pressures of a global consulting business, it stil manages to foster growth and a diversity of ideas. On me, the biggest impact has been that I’ve now become a half-decent public speaker.

Until last year, conference speaking wasn’t even in my list of things to do. But a colleague shared an interesting speaking opportunity, then my boss encouraged me, then a mentor helped craft the proposal, then 2 amazing colleagues volunteered to give feedback on the talk… and et voila.

As of this writing, 4 fantastic conferences have given me the opportunity to present:

Lead Dev Austin, April 2018

(video, slides) Lead Dev Austin, Apr 2018

DeveloperWeek NY, June 2018

(link, slides) DeveloperWeek NY, Jun 2018

ThoughtWorks XConf NY, July 2018

(video, slides, link, twitter) XConf North America, NY, Jul 2018

Self Conference, Detroit, August 2018

(link, slides coming soon) Self.Conference, Detroit, Aug 2018

In between, there was also Geeknight Dallas (slides) in May, and a couple of internal ThoughtWorks and client meetings on ReactJS, mentorship etc.

For anyone planning to get into conference speaking, here’s my recipe from these past few months:

  1. Keep an idea diary. A subject you care deeply about is probably the #1 thing you should start with. A decent substitute is to have an interesting take on some current matter of interest.
  2. Lots of feedback from peers and subject matter experts
  3. A certain amount of “how bad could it be?” to help overcome the debilitating imposter syndrome - I almost didn’t apply to any of the above speaking opportunities, thinking I would have nothing original or interesting to say.
  4. A knowledge of the success:failure ratios to expect. An experienced speaker once told me he has a 1-in-10 hit ratio; so that’s the number I started in mind with. So while I have been accepted at 4 conferences; I’ve been rejected by 35. It does take some persistence and a little thick skin.
  5. Learn from better speakers. Listen to TED talks, conference talks, great speeches - anything that might give you a way to improve.
  6. Practice.
  7. Record a video of your talk and study the tape to see what to do better next time.

And if you’re wondering if it’s worth it, take my word for it: yes, it is. Imagine yourself in this company:

XConf NY, Rebecca Parsons XConf NY, Tom Oketch XConf NY, Christine Rohacz XConf NY, Joanna Parke XConf NY, Martin Fowler & Zhamak Dehgani XConf NY, Allen Plummer & Saleem Siddiqui XConf NY, Vishal Bardoloi