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Notes from a first time speaker

If you’ve chatted with me before about job search strategies, you’ll know I’m a big supporter of speaking at meetups. If you cringed at this suggestion, you’ll be delighted to know I ‘ate my own dog food’ and spoke for the first time this year at SydCSS. For those considering speaking for the first time, here’s what happened so you know what to expect.

📝 The Preparation

The meetup organisers helped me:

  • Choose a topic - something they knew I could easily talk about and that their members would like to hear.
  • Confirm a summary of the talk well in advance - this helped them promote the meetup and helped me start writing with plenty of preparation time.
  • With slide deck tips - since I don’t use Keynote/PowerPoint that often.
  • Know what to expect on the night eg the talk will be recorded, who the other speakers will be etc.

🎬 The Rehearsal

We had a quick run through before the night. This was a chance to:

  • Click through my slides and make sure tech wouldn’t get in the way.
  • Time my talk to make sure I didn’t go over time, or talk too quickly.
  • Know what to expect when it came to things like who will be introducing me, will there be questions afterwards etc.
  • Get feedback from the organisers who know their stuff.
  • Hear the other talks (and see their slides!) - which inspired me to tweak my talk a bit more.

Note: not all meetups have rehearsals, but it doesn’t hurt to ask. Another idea is to practice with your own team.

🎤 The Delivery

After all the preparation and the rehearsal, all the hard work had been done. It was just a matter of making sure I stuck with the plan and asked for help along the way if something came up.

  • I met the organisers and the speakers before the event started so we could have once last quick run though;
  • I was very nervous;
  • 5 minutes isn’t very long so it was over before I knew it.

♻️ Making The Most Of It

  • Since giving this talk I’ve written a blog post and shared it to people I think would find it helpful.
  • You can also reuse and recycle your content by giving the same or a similar talk at other meetups.
  • Some organisers (like RORO) even say they’ll give you a LinkedIn recommendation for your efforts!
  • Tweet about it before and after and share links to your slides or the video.

🎗 If You're Considering Speaking For The First Time, Remember...

  • You’re not expected to be an expert, people speak all the time on topics they are simply interested in;
  • The topic doesn’t need to be technical - it can be more generally about any topic that meetup members can relate to eg. interviewing, career progression, side projects;
  • You don’t have to talk for a long time - you can give a 'lightning talk’ which is only 5 mins;
  • Meetup organisers are supportive and will help you prepare - that’s their job!
  • Meetup members are a friendly, supportive bunch and appreciate your contribution to the community.
  • It’s normal to be nervous!
  • If you’re not sure about anything speak to the meetup organiser.