How to speak at Tech conferences

Ever since the start of the lockdown I have been a speaker at events and conferences around the globe.

Today, I want to share some of the things that helped me get started and why it could be good for you to take up as well.

Recently, I got to speak at an offline event, the Google I/O Extended organised by GDG New Delhi. This was my first time delivering an in-person talk and a really fun meetup.

Aditya speaking at Google I/O Extended by GDG New Delhi

One persistent question I get is How to speak at such conferences?

Here’s my breakdown of the whole process with examples of what worked for me.

Proof of work

I have been involved in the Flutter Community for two years now. At the start, I was posting about what I was learning and shared the projects that I was building. This ‘learning in public’ helped me build my name in the community and also helped me connect with like-minded people.

Here’s a post I made when I was still learning Flutter.

Proof of work can go a long way in building your personal brand.

You have more chances of being approved as a speaker or reached out to (with opportunities) if you have a strong personal brand.

Start small

Once I had a somewhat strong personal brand, I was being reached out to by student coordinators of campus clubs like GDSC, GFG Student Chapters, etc to deliver sessions on Flutter Development.

The first session I did was for a Google Crowdsource event. It had around 90 participants who at the time were a lot. Also, the online classes I attended at the time, had very less attendance and I had never seen more than 25 people in a classroom.

Honestly, I was very scared at the time. So much so that I texted my friend, who had then helped set up the event, that I wouldn’t be able to deliver it.

Start at 0, to become number 1.

But, it is important to start small. Start by delivering sessions at college clubs and local chapters to get better at speaking and also to learn how best to structure your talks.­­

Here’s how to get started with that:

Reach out to a student ambassador on your campus with a message like: ‘Hey would you be interested in doing a session on this topic”.

Student Ambassadors are encouraged to organise more events, and if you can coordinate one with them it’ll be a win-win for both you and them.

There are also local clubs or student communities that are independently run and can provide opportunities to speak. Find event managers or coordinators for the same on socials and connect with them.

We, at TeamAditya, too organise sessions for our community members on Discord from time to time. If you’d like to speak there, join the server here, drop me an email at mail@adityathakur.in and I would love to have you. We’ll handle the marketing and organising side of things while you can share what you love.

Our community members would benefit from your knowledge and you’ll have something to add to your journey. Win-win for both.

CFPs for the win!

Once you’ve become comfortable with delivering sessions and talking about the technology, it is time to go big and start looking out for CFPs (Call for Paper) of conferences.

CFP is an open opportunity for anyone interested in speaking at a conference to send in their paper or topic with details about their talk.

Let’s start with the basics!

How to find CFPs?

Normally whenever a conference is close, the link to submit a paper is live on the event’s website and also shared across social media on their handles. Something that might help is thinking of all the conferences in the past year or so and following their pages on Twitter and LinkedIn. I like to also turn on post notifications of some major events to stay updated whenever they make a Call for Papers.

💡 Follow accounts of the past or upcoming conferences on Twitter (with notifications turned on) to not miss out when the CFP opens up!

For Flutter folks, this would mean following conferences such as:
- Flutter Vikings
- Flutter Global Summit
- Google Developer Groups
- Other organisers such as GeekyAnts, etc

It also helps following the organizers of these events as they’d be the first to retweet or share about the event. The first time I submitted a CFP was for the online edition of Flutter Vikings. I came across the CFP after Majid, the event organiser, tweeted about it.

This also brings me to the question I often get:

What to submit?

See what aligns with the event
If you’re speaking at a Flutter conference, it’d be better to send in a talk on a Flutter-related topic. Similarly, a JavaScript conference would appreciate more Web-related topics.

It is very important to see if your proposals align with the goals of the event.

Don’t send in the obvious
When submitting a talk, many people make the mistake of sending in some very common topics. For Flutter devs, this would mean talking about something like state management in Flutter. While state management might be difficult for some, I wouldn’t recommend taking it up unless you’re the package author of a popular solution.

Most common topics are filtered out and rejected at the start. I once submitted a talk on “Testing in Flutter” which was rejected and I believe is another common topic.

Your talks don’t necessarily have to be only technical.

Consider submitting talks on tracks like Community, Collaboration, etc. You can also share your experiences breaking into tech. Normally, conferences do allow light talks to not overwhelm the audience with only technical content.

When I submitted my Flutter Vikings talk I had just finished working on migrating the Flutter Community plugins to use the new Flutter lints package. The talk aligned with the event as it was based on Flutter, and was relevant for any devs looking to migrate their app/packages/plugins to the new suggested lints and also a great opportunity for me to learn more.

Remember to have fun with it!

Submitting a talk shouldn’t be a task. Remember to ease out and have fun with the topics that you send in. Do not be dejected by rejection. I have had a few talks rejected but have had more selected when I was just excited about sharing something I learnt with the community.

It is always an honour to get on stage and share something you know. I recently gave my first web3 talk, so can positively say, there is always something new to try out and it is only important to have fun with it.

Aditya talking about Solidity and deploying smart contracts at Polygon Guild Delhi

Hopefully, this helps you start your Speaker journey by finding CFPs and submitting a talk. I, continue to talk at events here in Delhi and if we do run into each other, come say ‘Hi’ 👋

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