In yesterday’s post I talked about what I believe is the most important reason for public speaking, but different people have different motivation and I think it’s good for you to understand what you want to get out of the experience, as it might affect how you approach the journey.
Speaking at conferences will certainly increase your visibility in the conference-going community, but I think you’ve got to be realistic about what that means. Let’s say you go to UKOUG and present to 50 people, the rest of the 1000 people at the conference don’t have a clue who you are. The internet will not suddenly be set alight with news of your presentation, unless it is really amazing or really bad. The conference going community is a small fraction of the people out there that use Oracle. If your main motivation is fame, at best you will make yourself a big fish in a very small pond.
When Alex Gorbachev spoke about Pythian‘s attitude to their staff speaking at conferences, the emphasis was very much on keeping the staff happy, more than the leads it generates for the company. Having spoken to people over the years, I think the relationship between conference speaking and work opportunities is drastically over-hyped.
Of course, if building “your brand” is something you aspire too, conferences are one aspect of that, but don’t expect to do one presentation and have the world throwing opportunities your way.
I’ve already started that conversation in the previous section, but let’s continue… So I’ve said I don’t think speaking at conferences is directly going to help you, but indirectly is a different matter. Adding information about conference presentations on your resume sends a message to employers. Regardless of how good or bad you were, it says to me this person is willing to stand up in front of a crowd of people and try to knowledge spread. It indicates a level of enthusiasm beyond just wanting a pay cheque. That would interest me as an employer.
Once again, I think you have to be careful about what you expect from this. I don’t think I’ve ever been employed because I am “Tim Hall”. Most places don’t have a clue I am the guy that does “that website” until after I’ve started working for them. I guess some people play on their profile a lot more, but for me I quite like keeping work and community separate from each other.
You don’t understand something until you can teach it
Interestingly, in the UK we also have the saying, “Those that can, do. Those that can’t, teach”
Seriously though, we work in a copy & paste industry these days. The vast majority of people don’t have the time, energy or motivation to study beyond getting the job done. Being selected to present at a conference is an extremely good motivator for hitting the books. I know some people actively pick subjects they are not overly familiar with as a learning experience. I’m not brave enough for that. The closest I’ve come is this year’s newbie guide to WebLogic stuff.
In addition to what you learn during the process of writing and rehearsing your talks, you also learn a lot when people ask you questions. You are effectively combining their experience with your own.
Birds of a feather flock together. You will spend more time at conferences with attendees and the other speakers, giving you the inside track on loads of great information you will not be able to get directly from the manuals. Networking is a great motivator for me.
I guess if you are of that mindset, you can turn this network to your advantage when job-hunting, but as I’ve said, that’s not really my thing…
Giving something back
If you’ve benefited from the community over the years, maybe you should consider giving something back. Presenting is one of the ways you can do that. The folks you see speaking at conferences now will not be around forever…
Remember, your motivation does not have to be the same as mine. The fact that yours is different to mine does not make me right and you wrong. Decide what it is you want to get out of the experience and focus on how best to achieve that. If you are like me and just in it for the ride, just keep saying yes to opportunities and see where it takes you…