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The 10 things I’ve learned from speaking to the experts on why you should consider speaking at events

Speaking COMPLETELY changes your career trajectory

Trisha Gee spoke very passionately about how her career had completely changed since she got into speaking. She started doing a few talks at the LJC, then “made a bunch of friends, got a bunch of jobs, spoke at a bunch of conferences and became a Java Champion”. Being a professional speaker has enabled Trish to relocate her life from London to Spain where she lives and works as a Developer Advocate for JetBrains. Hear Trish discuss this here:

Jim Gough started giving lightning talks at the LJC, despite being nervous. Jim said “Once I’d got more confident in public speaking for the LJC I started to do more in the company I worked at and at conferences. Eventually, that led to me going into full-time technical training.” Beyond that, Jim spent four years teaching in China, India, Canada, US and London. Hear Jim talk about this here:

It leads to internal promotions, increased pay and better projects

Some people love their company and have no desire to move on. For those people, speaking can act as a great way to elevate themselves above their peers. You will naturally draw the attention of the leaders and key people within the organisation. 

Depending on your chosen career route this will often lead to promotion opportunities into leadership. You will naturally become a more important person for the organisation to hold on to which will lead to (often pretty substantial) pay rises and an increased ability to select the work you are involved in.

This effect becomes even greater if you are out speaking at Meetups or conferences because you will be generating positive vibes around your business – something which the leadership will be only too aware of. 

It will lead to being headhunted with high paying job offers 

If you start speaking publicly it will raise your profile in the industry, more people will know you and as Robin Moffatt said, “That naturally increases your ability to find a role.” Many in senior positions will watch you speak and the next time they are looking to hire will reach out to you. Others will see you as someone they’d like to work with and may well let internal recruiters know about you. 

Internal recruiters at companies and good external recruiters at agencies will hear your name from your events and will get in touch to offer opportunities when they arise. 

These opportunities can lead to significant increases in your current salary. It wouldn’t be beyond the realms of imagination for a few Meetup talks to lead to job offers with a 10-15K pay increase, if not more. Put that way- it’s a very good investment of your time. 

These opportunities can often be serendipitous, Robin spoke about how he gave a talk at a conference and then later went on to work for the company that runs that conference based on his 45-minute presentation. The best bit is that once a potential employer has seen you talk it bypasses those awkward early-stage interviews and the whole recruitment process is more natural and enjoyable. 

You will become a magnet for opportunities and kindred spirits

When you speak you elevate yourself above the crowd, and people start to notice you. Almost everyone I have spoken to has mentioned that presentations tend to lead to impromptu discussions after the event, whether at the event or online afterwards. Ben Evans tracked down Martijn Verburg after he saw him speaking, for instance. This led to their life-changing partnership – writing books together, running training courses together and even starting a business that went on to be acquired by Microsoft in 2019. 

Nicki Watt and Trisha Gee both commented about how it leads to people approaching you after your events. In Trisha’s case, she went from being quite introverted and nervous about meeting new people at events, to enjoying it. Trisha says: “The weird thing is that you would think that presenting at a user group would be more nerve-racking, but it’s not. You go up, you speak in front of people, you’ve already prepared what you’re going to say. And then people come up to you and they talk to you. So it actually becomes a lot easier to go to these big events, speak to people and make friends.”

Robin Moffat said that people will often watch your talk then write to you to discuss it to say they enjoyed it. These informal discussions that start from feedback can often lead to great opportunities. Robin discusses it here:

Richard Warburton spoke about various opportunities that had come to him off the back of speaking at events – opportunities such as writing books and running training courses. These all came from Richard doing a few lightning talks at the LJC. Richard talks about the opportunities that only arose from having done public speaking. 

It will have a huge impact on your communication skills

Daniel Bryant spoke about how when he started speaking it connected all the dots for him which helped him with developing his writing and coding skills – it created a virtuous circle. To understand how to explain an idea you have to invest time in creating and curating content – and in developing these skills. Here is Daniel discussing how it’s helped his communication skills:

Nicki Watt spoke about how feedback is a natural part of speaking and is a great way to learn about how you communicate some of your concepts. When you present a topic people will tell you what they learned and what they still don’t understand, giving you the opportunity to constantly hone your ability to communicate complex topics: 

It can help you prepare for senior executive roles, e.g. CTO

Nicki Watt found speaking really helped her communication skills but it also helped to prepare her for a role as a senior exec. It helped in her ability to speak on different levels – whether that was at a business level or tech level. In Nicki’s words, “Being able to understand how to differentiate your talk and hit both or all of those audiences at the same time is a skill that is very helpful when you get to senior executive positions.“

You can put right some of the wrongs in the industry

Richard Warburton spoke about how within tech, many people have passions and strong opinions about how things should be different. Given the industry is still quite young, there’s time to change the things you don’t like and speaking can give you the power to get it done. Whether it’s around writing more tests in code or something that taps into your personal beliefs around mentoring, through speaking you genuinely can move the industry closer to your ideals.

You can also bring about the change you want to see in specific technologies too. Trisha spoke about a few specific examples of this in action. In one she presented Java 9 and the developers of JShell, after watching and seeing her pain points, wrote to her to say her presentation had led to them fixing the problems. You can see Richard and Trish talk about this in more detail here: 

You can help people learn things… and get showered with praise for doing so

Some people seem to be born with a passion for coaching, mentoring, teaching or purely helping others. In fact, many of those I’ve spoken to have expressed their love for helping people learn things, so much so that they will do it for free. Speaking is the perfect way to do this. 

Though some may not realise it, everyone has a unique perspective that will be of value to others. If you have mastered a particular technology, cracked a complex concept or experienced challenging times you will no doubt have had those little eureka moments where things just connected for you along the way. Others may not have been so lucky. You could be the difference between them learning it or giving up… and if you can reach them, they will thank you for it. That gratitude can be hugely motivational.

Through giving presentations you will learn about storytelling, content curation (selecting the best bits) and ultimately better ways to get complex concepts across in a simple way. Which will help make you a more effective teacher.

It is a great way to build a support network

Life is always easier if you’re surrounded by well-connected people that know you and with whom there is mutual respect. In the tech world, there are new problems or crises around every corner. The more senior you become within your career the more important it is to have a wider support network. These people can do everything from putting out fires to opening doors to life-changing mentors or opportunities.

Nicki Watt said she’s met some truly great people, which in itself can open up doors. Having a wide community of technical people helps in all areas, from getting jobs to solving problems. She went on to say that if they have heard you speak, they are more likely to respond and help you – even if you haven’t actually met them. Nicki talks about this here: 

You get to go to conferences for free

When you speak at a conference you get to attend the rest of it for free. This in itself can be a big reason why many speakers speak at so many. It also means not having to take any holiday, not having to have awkward conversations about booking the time off and if you’re promoting your company then they may even be prepared to pay for or subsidise your travel and expenses. 

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