I’m a shy person, but have always been passionate about helping my team do good work. That meant I had to learn to speak up sometimes. It also meant I needed to learn a lot of other things! I saw all these great conferences around, but couldn’t afford to register. So I started submitting proposals.

I met with much rejection, but I kept on. One conference asked for a paper along with the proposal. A tech writer friend offered to edit my paper and proposal. She did such a good job, I was accepted. The conference organizers liked my paper so much, they invited me to present at a conference in Europe. Once I had experience, it was much easier to get accepted at other conferences.

I also volunteered a lot. I helped start a local user group, and was the presenter at our first meeting. I volunteered for conference track review committees (a great way to learn proposal-writing tips!). I volunteered to do grunt work at conferences. I had so many learning and network opportunities. I shared my experiences with others, and learned so much from theirs. I was able to help my teams deliver better products. I kept working on my presenting and facilitating skills. But I found that participants liked that I was a “worker bee” like themselves, we learned together.

You can do this too

We all have experiences, good or bad, to share. Many others run into the same problems we did. What we tried to solve the problem may help someone else.

Speak Easy helps you find that person who can help polish up your proposals, or shepherd your first conference presentation. Those of us with experience can help you find your niche. Perhaps, like me, you are more comfortable facilitating a workshop rather than delivering a lecture. Or maybe you’ve secretly been going to Toastmasters for years and you’re already an amazing speaker, you just need help writing a proposal that will get accepted. If you don’t feel confident, some of us are happy to pair propose and present with you.

Here’s a secret: every time I do a session, I think, “OMG, I’m terrible, I messed that up, I’m never doing this again”. But then participants come up to me afterward, ask questions, and thank me for all they learned. They write nice things in the evaluations, even though I don’t consider myself a good speaker (though I am a decent facilitator). I’ve also learned that it is much more fun to pair on a session, and I do that a lot. I might do it with you!

The software world needs you

I don’t know about you, but I get tired of going to conferences and finding the same consultants and vendors are delivering the same talks as the year before. We need fresh faces and voices. We need new perspectives. We need creativity and innovation! We need to hear about what you and your teams do, so we can steal your good ideas.

Conferences with homogenous speakers who all do the same thing aren’t good learning experiences. We need to see our problems from many perspectives. We need diverse experiences to come up with creative experiments to try. Diversity at conferences could lead to more diversity in software teams. It could help our careers. It could mean better products for our customers.

Your team needs you to come to conferences to learn. We need to learn from you. Everybody wins!