Conference Speaking – Yes or No?


Blank projector screen, with man in shadows to one side

Well it’s getting around to that time of year when conference submission are due.

Now, I go through this process a few times a year, it doesn’t change.

What to submit?

When you take into consideration the process and the timeliness of the talks, blogs on the topic and  similar talks, is it really worthwhile.

I often wonder if the benefits outweigh the outlay of time and effort.  Does your talk really change things, even just a little, for the people attending.

The Speaker

It’s not just getting a submission together that is the hard part, the entire process can be time intensive.

  • Finding a Topic.

    First off, I struggle to find a topic,  I think other people will find interesting.    Often I find that my short list of ideas has been done already at a US conference or I know some who can/will do the topic a lot better than I can.

  • Referencing Your Case Studies.

    Often I’m not blessed with big budget projects. There tends to be a large number of short intense projects, mainly it’s just mundane stuff that we all do.  The ones that work but the outcome isn’t ground breaking.

  • Submission.

    Pitching a project to a client usually isn’t an issue, but to your peers, this has to be perfect, more than prefect.  So  putting together the submission can be a lot of work.

  • Preparing the Talk.

    If you get the nod to speak, it doesn’t end there.   Often for people that are freelancing writing that talk is going to be on your own time, while you are doing it you’re not earning money.  Usually I find that it takes a minimum of an hour per minute of the talk. Hence 40 minutes of talk is a minimum of 40 hours to prepare.

  • Presenting.

    Presenting for me isn’t an issue, conference audiences are a lot friendlier than any board room. Anyway I really enjoy presenting.

  • Post Presentation.

    After the presentation is done, there is the post  presentation work, like a blog write up, assuming you are not reusing it.

Now that’s a lot of work if you add it all up.  Do you think it’s worth it?

The Organiser

Now lets consider the process from the organisers view.

Consider most conferences organise their program at least 6 months, sometimes 8 months out from the event.   This means the talk submissions are at least 6-8 months old by the time they are presented.   In most cases talks will be about case studies that happened around 6 months before submission, so when the conference happens the talk is working off things based on 12-18 months ago.

This means that in the intervening time, options can change, similar talks will be presented, the presenter can even change their view on what they submitted.

It’s a constant on going issue.  Sometimes I know conference organisers will leave 20% of the program to fill at the last minute, selecting the best “current topics”, and hoping they can find a speaker available.

Or the speaker may hedge, and put in a projects that haven’t finished, in the blind hope they conclude well before the conference happens.

The Question

You know when you attend a conference, you really want to ensure that every session you see is of maximum value.

Now when you are speaking at a conference in some ways you would often prefer to see the person you are opposing on the program – why does this always happen!

Makes you think is it really worth the effort  all that above) when you maybe taking up a slot another speaker you really want to see could be presenting in, After all most good conferences only have a limited number of sessions.

It comes down to present or relax and watch someone else’s preso goodness?

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