If you speak at technology conferences, if you speak at meetups, or if you want to speak in public about technology, and the cool things you have built, then this newsletter is for you.
I speak at technology conferences. I love speaking and getting feedback from the audience. It's a huge honor to be able to do it. But I had to figure it all out for myself. There's no obvious place to start. The community of tech speakers is incredibly generous, and any given individual will always help you, but where do you begin?
And even if you have spoken at conferences and meetups, how do you get better? I've decided to start a newsletter to help everybody who wants to speak, to speak better. As my Grandfather used to say: "what's the greatest room in the world? Room for improvement." Cheesy, but true. We all have a great deal of passion for what we talk about, and we all want to speak well and connect with others. That's why I love speaking at conferences. There is nothing better than giving somebody the gift of a new idea.
I think weekly is about the right regularity for the newsletter, as we all have a living to earn. Tech speakers are not full-time speakers. We're not going to end up getting paid to speak. Learning a little each week is the way to go. Being a great tech speaker is not something that happens overnight. It's a skill, and you need to serve an apprenticeship. Your abilities will compound and grow over the years. Yes, years. This is a long term project.
In each newsletter, I feature three upcoming conferences that you can attend within the next year. These are hand-picked. Some I have attended, some I have not, but all are carefully selected, and have something a little different that makes them worth attending. These are not conference reviews; they are suggestions. I try to attend conferences first before I speak at them, as you get a good sense of the talks that will be accepted. You learn the community vibe and meet people in the community. You get a better shot at speaking next year.
I also profile a really good tech speaker. You can learn by simple imitation and observation, a mode of learning that many forget is possible. You do not always need to understand something analytically to be proficient at it - the neural network in your brain is quite good at learning despite the noise of your conscious mind, thank you very much.
Theory has its place too. I also feature an insightful blog post that has helped me become a better speaker. Many little details pull together to build a great presentation, and you need to get to know the technicalities of your craft.
Finally, you need inspiration. The great speeches of history are absolute treasure troves of learning. The art of rhetoric, considered a fundamental art of civil participation by the ancient Greeks, is as powerful today as it was three millennia ago. Each week I invite you to experience something actually awesome.
I've never written a newsletter before, so I've no idea what I'm doing here. Please help me to make this newsletter better each week. You can email me directly: firstname.lastname@example.org. You can tweet too: @metsitaba. I'm really asking for your help to make this work - thank you so much for reading!
The art of destroying software
I love this talk. Yes, Greg is sitting on a chair, talking without slides. It's gutsy, genuine, and he communicates far more clearly using only his voice and presence than he ever would with slides. At the start of the talk, he explains that he has just deleted the forty slides he originally prepared. This is master-level stuff.
Listen to the pacing of his voice. It's slow, but not monotonous. The intonation rises and falls. This is what people mean when they say you should speak slowly. Listen to how well it works.
How can you speak slowly? I often find myself speaking too quickly, and I know that I am, yet find it hard to slow down. If I do slow down, it feels so slow that I must surely lose the audience. But consider this. As you stand on the stage in front of an audience of your peers, secretly dying inside, your brain is being supercharged by adrenalin. You are literally 10 IQ points more intelligent the moment you stand behind the podium. Your audience is docile and passive, probably bored by the last speaker, and definitely has half an eye on social media and email. Their attention is divided, and they have lost 10 IQ points just by sitting there.
You can speak slowly! The audience will barely keep up. Even if it feels unnatural, it comes out beautifully, as you can hear with Greg.
Open Source Summit Europe 2017
This is the main conference of the Linux Foundation in Europe. The speakers are high profile but also highly diverse.
This is one of many conferences run by the Linux Foundation, and their website is a great place to look for 2018 events that have open calls for speakers.
Women of Silicon Roundabout, 2018
If you want to take diversity in tech seriously, then you need to attend this conference. Learning and understanding is how we make the world better. This is not something that will happen by itself. Collectively, we have to make it happen.
The most fun you can have in Ireland this year. NodeConfEU takes place in Kilkenny, a truly medieval place. This conference is the big one in Europe for Node.js, and you kinda have to be there if you have anything to with Node.js. Also Guinness.
Note: I was a founder of nearForm, who run this conference.
Learn from the best
"Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears"
The most iconic speech in all of Shakespeare is a study in the use of emotional rhetoric (pathos). Given by Marc Antony, the loyal friend of Caesar, in direct response to the rational justification (logos) of Brutus for the assassination of Caesar. Brutus warns that the free citizens of Rome would be enslaved by Caesar as king, and gains the trust of the crowd: "Not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved Rome more..."
Marc Antony uses repetition and irony to drive home the message that the conspirators, and Brutus, are hypocrites, slaying Caesar not for the good of Rome, but for their own ambition.
He starts slowly, and builds to an undeniable reveal, winning the crowd's hearts and minds. His delivery is so intense that he must pause to regain his composure. A riot begins, and civil war is the result, with Marc Antony ultimately victorious.
A great speech has one message and sticks to it. Marc Antony paces himself, each time returning to the message with more force. I've often been afraid to repeat myself when giving a talk, for fear of boring the audience. The opposite is true. As you build your case rationally, use repetition that appeals to the emotions to lock down your points. Not every talk is a funeral oration on the brink of war, but in our more mundane modern era, you can at least let the topic structure of your slides reflect the genius of Shakespeare!
Most books have just a single good idea, and you have to wade through mountains of verbiage to find it. This book has one great idea, make your users awesome, and it's on the front cover.
Some books can give you a fundamentally deeper understanding, and a useful new perspective. This book not only does that, but has such a unique style, designed to teach you how to implement the idea. It's the reason I started seeking out and watching videos of great talks as part of my weekly routine.
Kathy Sierra is awesome, and just happens to be a great conference speaker too.
We are all have day jobs. Speaking a conferences might be part of that job, or just something we love to do. But that doesn't mean we should be pushovers. Conference speakers sometimes don't get the best treatment. We are not a commodity, and it takes a lot of time and effort to put together a great talk.
I like this blog post because it reminds me that we are part of community, and we need to stand up for ourselves. Don't feel you have to put up with nonsense just because you are starting out.
These are the CFP deadline dates.
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