We have recently launched an initiative to help aspiring speakers to take their first steps and join others on a similar path. To help further, I plan to write a series of posts for developers and tech folk looking at the benefits of speaking as well as how to get started — whether that’s conference speaking, public speaking or giving internal talks.
So who am I and why should you care what I think?
I am the founder and organiser of a number of technical communities in London, from graduate to CTO level. The largest of which is the London Java Community. I have organised or been part of a team that has organised hundreds of meetup events and over 10 unconferences. I’ve worked closely with conference organisers of major conferences and together with my team, we have recently organised 20+ virtual events. I would consider myself lucky to have become friends with many keynote conference speakers, many of whom I have known from early on in their speaking journey.
But what makes this experience more interesting and unusual is that I also own a tech recruitment company. We have been on a mission for many years to prove that recruitment, which is often viewed negatively by developers, can, in fact, be a true force of good in the industry. My belief is based around the fact that recruiters earn a living by constantly ensuring they are at the heart of an industry and that they are well connected to everyone within it. Be it graduates, employers, decision-makers or people relocating into the area. What is more, the best recruiters ensure they are in touch with the top 5–10% of that industry, it is the only way to stay relevant in an industry that is being eaten by tech.
Me personally I’m something of a career-geek. I’ve always been obsessed with careers and the little things that people can do to bring their lives closer to a career they love. My wife always says she can’t take me anywhere without me offering career advice to people I’ve just met. Over the years, I’ve helped many friends get ahead in their careers or get the jobs they love by offering CV/interview advice — I get a real kick out of it. The thing is when you work in recruitment for long enough you can see the game of it all. You get to study people’s careers and see what happens, see which people pass all the interviews, which get all the offers — who are the most successful 5–10%… and most importantly what is it they do differently.
Why I believe developers should get into speaking
For me speaking is one of those things that people do that can really expedite their careers. It brings huge benefits, both immediate and long-term and the best bit is that it’s never been easier to give it a try.
I’ve watched people who have taken the plunge with speaking literally transform their careers — many, many times over. The initial and most tangible benefits are financial — if you become a conference speaker, even a speaker at meetups you will almost certainly be able to command more money. Many companies love to have people in their company that are known in the industry. Speaking at even a few events does wonders for the brand awareness of your employer, something which many companies are increasingly looking for. Employers also love to hire people with an obvious passion for what they do, speaking is one of the clearest ways to demonstrate it. Through speaking alone, you’ll be in more demand and will be able to push your salary or daily rate expectations up.
Even if you are not looking to move to another company, speaking will often have an impact on your position internally. By speaking you will become hotter property, more people will know of you and thus you will be headhunted more. This obviously puts you in a stronger negotiating position when it comes to pay reviews. Employers don’t always know the value of their employees, but headhunters can help you prove your worth. Would you be tempted to give a few conference talks if you knew it could lead to a 10K pay rise?
The less obvious benefit — but the one with a much bigger win is that of choice. Whilst being able to command higher salaries is important, options are much more so. There are some companies for instance that will only hire people that are passionate enough to be recognised and respected in their industry either from blogging about tech or speaking at conferences. I’ve seen people begin to get interviews at companies that would have previously rejected their CV once they start speaking. This carries the same impact internally as well — the more influential you become the greater your ability to pick and choose the work you take on. Speaking (internally or externally) is a great way to elevate your profile among your peers. Especially with many companies having offices in different countries, you can invite your international colleagues to watch you speak and be sure that the seniors within your business will start to know your name.
But for me, the biggest benefit was something I learned at an LJC Unconference a few years ago. I was in a talk from two of my favourite speakers, Daniel Bryant and Abraham Martin-Perez — they were giving a presentation about their journey in speaking. I’ve always loved the enthusiasm that these guys show when speaking but it was when I asked them what they, personally had gotten out of speaking that they blew me away. They both said that one of the best bits was that it had brought them together with other people that shared their passions. They had both found that speaking had brought them together with both their heroes and people they had never known that shared their interests. That ultimately that was what life was all about — connecting with kindred spirits that love the same thing you do. The higher you elevate yourself into this world the more chance it is that you will find others that resonate with you. This to me changed my perspective about speaking but I have since heard similar things mentioned from thought leaders of the world like Tim Ferris and Naval Ravikant.
I could write a blog post in itself of the vast amount of personal growth you’ll experience from speaking. You will make huge jumps in your own personal development around leadership and communication skills — everything from body language around actual presenting to the ability to take a complex subject and explain it to others — which naturally improves your ability in coaching, teaching and mentoring.
Finally, it will give you a great buzz. Many of the most experienced speakers will tell you they still feel the adrenalin and some nerves before stepping out on stage, and a huge wave of it afterwards.
In my next post, I’m going to cover the best way, in my opinion, to get started as a speaker. Any questions or feedback on this let me know.
If you’d like to sign up to our new group you can do so here. It’s targeted at London based Java developers, given that’s where most of our contacts are.