I enjoy public speaking. Not so much the extemporaneous, seat-of-your-pants stuff but more the organised, formal activity where I have time to prepare and rehearse. This passion took root in my previous life as a teacher at university before I took my professional vows as a developer. It’s also something that I don’t do anywhere near as often as I would like to, so I made an extra effort this year after a quiet 2013.
As I’ve completed all my speaking events this year, it seems like a good time to reflect. Firstly, the roll call:
- January: Microservices & DevOps (DevOps Meetup, Melbourne)
- March: Functional Programming (Functional Programming Meetup, Melbourne)
- April: Functional Programming (ASWEC Conference, Sydney)
- April: Microservices Architectures (ThoughtWorks Live, Melbourne)
- April: Microservices Architectures (ThoughtWorks Live, Sydney)
- May: Functional Programming (YOW West Conference, Perth)
- August: DevOps workshops (ThoughtWorks Internal Conference, Sydney)
- September: Agile Fundamentals (LaTrobe University Guest Lecture, Melbourne)
- October: Riemann (Clojure Meetup, Melbourne)
- November: Riemann (Client brownbag, Melbourne)
- November: Riemann (Infrastructure Coders Meetup, Melbourne)
What went well
I’ve long maintained that the key to doing a large number of events in a sustainable fashion is to increase the return on your investment (i.e., preparation time) by repeating the same talks on multiple occasions, either the exact content or variations thereof. Not only does this approach lessen the cost-per-talk, but it gives you more attempts to deliver the material, which generally improves the result.
To that end, I’m glad I managed to deliver my Riemann content three times (slight variations on each), my Functional Programming content three times (variations on each) and my Microservices Architectures content twice (more or less identical).
Four conferences (three public, one internal), four meetups, one client brownbag and one university lecture provided a lot of variety; some required/demanded lots of preparation and rehearsal, some were more casual and needed less upfront preparation.
All talks were solo affairs, apart from the Microservices Architecture one, which I paired on with my colleague Zhamak Dheghani.
Session length varied also from 10 minutes (ASWEC conference) through to 45 minutes (ThoughtWorks Live conference), with an average length of 30-40 minutes.
As ex-organiser of the DevOps Melbourne meetup, I’ve become reasonably adept at nudging people into doing presentations. Sometimes the people just need a little encouragement, sometimes the ancient black magic of “voluntelling” comes into play. Most happily, I’m excited to give colleagues at ThoughtWorks a chance to step onto the stage and present. in one such case, a DevOps Melbourne session was also chosen to for the DevOps Days conference in Brisbane.
What didn’t go so well
The ones that got away
I had three conference submissions rejected over the course of the year (the DDD Conference in Melbourne, DevOps Days in Brisbane and Functional Programming India) which was disappointing. I bear no ill will towards the programming committees of these conferences who need to balance a variety of needs to build a compelling event, but like most people, it’s hard not to feel down when the rejection email arrives.
When it comes to submitting ideas for conferences and larger scale events, it helps to know as far in advance when the relevant dates are for submission. Sometimes this things crept up on me and it was only a stray email from a colleague or a tweet that alerted me to the impending deadline for submissions.
What to do differently next time
I have the beginnings of a plan that should give me lots more opportunity to present during 2015. It’s not yet finalised (in my own mind, let alone that of my employer), but if successful will allow me to get even more mileage out of fewer topics than this year.
Multi-channel distribution 🙂
I’m also looking for other mediums through which I can deliver this content. Blogging and podcasts/videocasts come to mind, but I don’t get the same adrenalin rush from the “performance” as I do when speaking live.
ThoughtWorks is very encouraging of people wanting to present publicly and I appreciate this support in the various forms it manifests (e.g., a receptive audience for rehearsal, time off client work for high-profile presentations, financial support where conferences are in other states). For all these reasons, I am grateful.