Conferences: Technical and Nontechnical

I am always half-envious at people who are giving presentations at conferences. I often feel as though I should be presenting something somewhere.

Two helpful things: How to Speak at a Technical Conference and Conference Presentation Judo.

Of course, it all depends on whether you intend the talk as a lecture, a demo or a debate. If a demo, then the product designer is the best one to do the demo. If a debate, it’s best to have a panel of 3 people than a single person. If a lecture, you better be either extremely brilliant or very funny.

Adam Trachtenberg adds his thoughts.

I strongly encourage people new to speaking circuit to submit multiple proposals because sometimes I dont select a talk because of anything bad with the speaker or the proposal, but because I have a much better speaker for that position. If you want to talk about, for example, Whats new in PHP, but I can get Rasmus to give that talk, then Im going to pick Rasmus 100% of the time. You might know everything there is about whats new in PHP, but thats not the point. However, if you also submit PHP and Web Services, then theres still a chance you can get selected for that slot. Unless, of course, I get a proposal from someone who wrote the SOAP extension.

One accomplishment I was particularly proud of during my overseas work was giving workshops at universities all over Ukraine. I was a sensation. I had 10 separate workshops, and each school could choose the 4 that interested them most. (It was all paid for by the organization I worked for, the Soros Foundation).

Cameron Barrett (of camworld fame) once told me that a conference like sxsw taught him little, an attitude that surprised me a lot. Sure, he’s more technically proficient on programming than I was (and probably still is), but I regarded the true value from conferences to come not from information transfer but the variety of perspectives during brainstorming sessions. How do you solve problem X? With 10 creative people in the room, you can receive a lot of good ideas.

Often, the most useful bits are things I pick up in passing. Once at a plone conference, Alexander Limi mentioned in passing this great Web Developer extension available on Firefox. Whoa!!! How could I have survived without that tool?