I love to hang around with my friends, being on a party or have any kind of company around me, but on the other side I avoid starting any kind of conversation. I still don’t know if I’m just shy or an introvert, there are others who can judge that better, and I know that a lot of developers are struggling with that. So you can imagine how a usergroup or conference normally looks like for me? Of course I enjoy the talks, but hide from every break, networking-event or the even so highly praised hallway tracks. But as already mentioned, if a conversation has been started I enjoy it, I would just never break the ice.
I visited my first usergroup only four years ago and learned a lot about new technologies on that evening, but also left the building as soon as the talks had been over, to avoid starting to talk to anyone. I was always keen about learning something new, e.g. read a lot of books and have been active in online communites, but going to a usergroup is all that compressed into a small 30 or 45 minutes slot. Which is great, to get a look into something new. I was also impressed by these cool guys on stage talking about their fancy technology stuff and everyone was looking up to them.
From that on I visited this usergroup regularly and also went to other events like unconferences and barcamps, to learn new stuff all over the time. Finally, I also wanted to be one of these cool guys on the stage. But it took me two more years to pick a topic, where I had at least some experienced knowledge, to not look dumb when being on stage. Then I brought all my courage together, to talk at a barcamp. Already weeks ago I prepared all slides and did a dozen of rehearsals. Anyway on that day when I had to give the talk I was literally shitty nervous. I even hated giving the talk itself, but from that point on some people knew me and a bunch of them were coming after the talk and started a conversation about exactly that topic. So it was perfect to have a topic to talk about, and I could even choose it as I gave the talk.
Starting to talk definitely changed my life as a developer. I enjoyed the conversations afterwards so much, that I applied to a bunch of more local small events. At the same time Davey Shafik also offered his help in writing an abstract. Thanks to him, I also had now a professional abstract. Btw for help on writing an abstract there’s a fabulous page these days at helpmeabstract.com. Now I got even accepted to bigger commercial conferences, where I have never been before as I would never pay so much money for it. :p
All that went extremely fast. Just a year later I was invited to talk at an intercontinental event, have been allowed to write several articles for magazines and even got offered a contract to write a book. Lanyrd claims that I was speaking at over 30 events in only two years, no matter how many events it have been, I’ve never learned so much interesting stuff and never met so many cool people. Talking about cool people, what I also experienced is that these guys on stage aren’t that cool at all. They’re just normal developers, so when you see one of them, just sit by them and if they don’t talk to you they might not be arrogant, but just be even more shy than you are. 😉
Since then I always try to concinve people to give a talk on their own. But don’t worry if you’re nervous, that’s a point for most of us. Even after all that talks I’ve made, I’m still super nervous before most of the talks. It’s also weird that I fear small groups of 10 – 20 people way more than big audiences of hundreds. Another point I often here is that people say they don’t have something to talk about. That’s not true! Even if there’s nothing interesting for you in your daily job, what are you currently looking at in a side-project? You’re not an expert in that? That’s not a problem, you might become an expert by talking about the topic. I frequently just state in the beginning that I don’t have too much knowledge and are very open for any additions from the audience. Still most of the audience will learn something new, as they have no experience at all in that topic, and I as a speaker will also learn something new from the one expert in the audience who is adding his thoughts. As long as you don’t claim being an expert noone will condemn you, if you don’t know the answer for a specific question.
Last but not least, of course before starting to speak and during all the time, I also tried to learn a lot about the speaking process itself. So I gathered a bunch of links about speaking, which I want to share with you. I hope there’s also something interesting for you in it!
Seeing what happend in the last 2-3 years by actively participating in the community, I’m happily looking forward to 2016 and also wish you a happy new year!