Thursday, October 1, 2015

Being the speaker

I am the speaker all the time. I teach. I present material most weeks. I'm paid know my stuff. People pay to learn stuff. While I mostly teach materials written by a large team of other people, I have also often been on those teams. With so many years of experience both writing and presenting material, why have I not been a speaker at conferences more frequently?

For me, a large part is figuring out a topic. Much of what I teach is multi-day classes. Most conference presentations are about 40 minutes with maybe another 10 for questions. What topics do I love to talk about can be narrowed down to a short presentation? What do people really want to hear? What is new or not talked about enough?

So I finally come up with some ideas. Am I describing it correctly to get chosen? How do I convince the committee? Do any of them know me or is the choice from the description only? Have I specified the correct "level" for the conference notes?

And then a talk is accepted. Now I have to actually finish the presentation materials. Bullets are bad. Pictures are good. Once again, have I specified the correct level or otherwise described my presentation correctly? Will anyone attend? What if I get asked a question I cannot answer? Why does the pre-conference attendee list include [leader in field X] as planning to attend my intro talk!?!  Why am I doing this? For free?

I think I need to go listen to Major's “Be an inspiration, not an impostor” talk. He wrote both about his talk at Texas Linux Fest and a followup FAQ.

My first conference talk was at a local information security conference. It was a smallish event and a small crowd attended my session but it went well. I felt that I had covered what I intended and at the level I had expected. I was even asked to submit a topic for the following year.

This year I presented at LinuxCon and was surprised at the response. They moved rooms as the interest shown in the talk increased. I ended up with 95 people attending my "SELinux, Its about the Labels" talk. That is a lot. The keynotes hold about 900 people. The Linux Security Summit at the end of the week was in a smaller room with about 100 people. Intimidating. It went well though - at least I think it did. I had a few people come up and ask questions at the end of the talk and a few others recognize me and mention the talk later in the week. No one flamed me in person or on social media. That is a win.

I am giving the same talk again next month and I learned a few things and will be tweaking the presentation but only a small amount.


No comments: