Photo of Christoph Rumpel

My Speaking Year 2018

Next to "My Coding Year" articles, I decided to write a separate article about my speaking experiences from 2018 this year as well. It is primarily a recap for myself but may help others to see the pros and cons of speaking as a developer.

Collage of photos with Christoph as a speaker

2018 was my best year as a speaker so far. I was able to speak at 12 different conferences and meetups in five different countries. Here is a list of all my given presentations separated by the talk titles:

  • Content Security Policy 101
    • ๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡ช PHP Ghent meetup
    • ๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡ช Full Stack Antwerp meetup
    • ๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡น webclerks meetup (lightning talk in front of Harry Roberts ๐Ÿ˜ƒ)
    • ๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡น WordCamp Vienna 2018
    • ๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ฑ Laracon EU Unconference
  • The PHP Developer Stack for Building Chatbots
    • ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ฆ CODEiD PHP
    • ๐Ÿ‡ฉ๐Ÿ‡ช SAE Alumni Convention Cologne
    • ๐ŸŒŽ NomadPHP(online)
    • ๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡น Laravel Vienna Meetup
  • The Beauty of Laravel's Notification System
    • ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ฆ PHP fwdays'18 Kiev
    • ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡น Codemotion Milan 2018
  • The State Of Chatbots in 2018
    • ๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡น Magento Meetup

In total, I have now done 22 talks since my first one in 2015, and I think it is time for a little recap.

Note: A list of all my talks with links and slides can be found on my talks page.

The Pros

Experience

I have come a long way since my first talk at the ViennaPHP meetup on the 17th of April in 2015. I still remember this day and how nervous I was. I always hated it to speak in front of others, but I'm glad I got a little push my by friend Sebastian Gรถttschke to do this talk about Laravel. As you can imagine, it wasn't fun at all, but somehow I made it through.

Like with every difficult situation you manage to handle, the feeling afterward is fantastic. Your body tried to set you a limit, but you and your mind were stronger. I love this feeling, especially after reaching sports goals.

Next, to that, a significant benefit of preparing talks is, that you need to study your topic in depth. Of course, you want to be prepared on stage and don't look like a fool. People sometimes do talks, just to be forced to learn something new and fast. Pressure forces us to work harder. We need to find the right dose.

Another benefit I realized is that you also learn how to teach better. When doing a talk, it is essential to find the right words to explain something in detail. This also helps you when talking with your boss, colleagues or clients. It also helps to get more self-confident which is often a problem at the beginning of a developer's career.

Traveling

Most speakers love conferences also because of traveling. There are tech conferences all around the world, and all of them are looking for new speakers every year. Speaking is a great way to see the world and to meet lots of different people and cultures. If you have a partner, take him or her with you and combine work with holidays. Go out, do talks and see the world.

Networking

This is my favorite advantage of giving talks. You can connect with so many new people. I'm not just talking about other speakers. Also, you get to know organizers, companies and lots of people from your audience.

As a developer, I love to have a big network with lots of different people. We can help each other and share experiences. Maybe you will work with someone you met on a new application, or somebody recommends you for an upcoming project. You never know how and when such a network will benefit you, but it will.

And last but not least, you can make new friends. ๐Ÿค—

Photo of Nuno Maduro, Marcel Pociot and Christoph Rumpel

The Cons

As great speaking may sound, not everything is shiny and fun as a speaker. Here I have collected some of the negative sides I have encountered as a speaker.

Rejection

The first thing you need to learn to deal with is rejection, because you will face this a lot. To become a speaker at a conference, you need to apply for their Call For Papers with your talk. Especially, when you have no experiences yet, it is quite difficult to get picked as a speaker. This means you have to apply to a lot of conferences. In 2018 I have submitted over 40 talks to conferences all around the world. When we exclude my meetup talks, this results in six positive CFP mails out of 40.

I'm still sad when one of my talks got rejected, but I'm now more used to it than a year ago. It is part of the business, and often it is not about you or you talk. Just keep trying, and it will work somewhere else. I promise.

Traveling (again)

Yes, traveling can also be something annoying or exhausting. Flying, for example, takes a lot of time and energy. I don't like flying at all. Being in tiny little vehicle thousands of meters above the ground for hours; it freaks me out every time I think about it.

Often it is also difficult to eat healthy during those journeys. You are not at home and can't cook for yourself. This means you go out to eat or eat at the conference, which is not always the healthiest food. Of course, if you travel just multiple times a year, that's no problem. But when you're out for a talk every month or even more, than it can get a health issue. Especially, when you like to drink alcohol which is often free as well.

Freek Van der Herten also talked about the problem of traveling too much as a speaker in his article Doing Less

Time

This is probably obvious, but still, I want to mention it: Preparing talks and visiting conferences takes a lot of time. Some conferences last several days and with getting there and getting back, it sometimes takes up to five days or more. Five days you are not at work and away from your beloved ones.

Many companies today support their employees when they go out to speak, but not all of them. It is hard for some companies to be without a good developer for several days. This gets a little bit easier when you are self-employed. It is up to you if you want to spend more time speaking.

On the other hand, now that I'm self-employed, every day at a conference means no time to work and no income. I'm still not good at working at an airport, plane, train or hotel.

Money

I'm sorry if I have to tell you that, but with speaking, you cannot make money. At least not until you are a well known and great one. Mostly your travel and hotel costs are covered, which is already great at the beginning. But not all conferences can help you out here. Sometimes, you have to pay for everything yourself. Fortunately, every conference provides information about what is covered, and it is up to you if you submit to it.

This year I took every chance for a talk, and therefore I also had some costs I had to pay myself. I like to see it more as an investment in my future. Especially when you are self-employed, it is essential to go out and promote yourself. For me, it was also crucial to promote my ebook and video course.

Energy

Many developers struggle with communication, especially when it comes to real life. As developers, we are often introverts. That's also why we like to spend so much time with computers :-)

I wouldn't call myself an introvert; still I like being alone, and I need this time to refill my batteries. Going out to meetings, workshops, meetups or conferences is still exhausting to me. I'm talking about listening to people, talks, meeting new people and of course speaking as well. I feel like I have a specific amount of energy for these things and at some point, this energy is gone, and I need to leave.

During a conference, I like to my hotel to relax. I heard similar stories from many developers, and I'm glad it is not just me. It is always a good idea to listen to your body. There is no need to be ashamed, this is normal, and everyone has a different energy level.

Resolutions For 2019

Wow! So this was a lot of information about my speaking experiences so far. Now that my speaking year is over, I'm already thinking about next year. I already know that I will change my approach to speaking in 2019 a little bit. These are my resolutions for the next year:

  • speak at a Laracon conference
  • travel less or combine it better with my girlfriend
  • don't apply for every conference
  • apply for specific conferences
  • apply only for conferences where all travel costs are covered
  • work on my English, especially my pronunciation

If you were thinking about speaking yourself one day, make it happen in 2019. Start small with a local meetup and see how it goes and if you like it. You can do it!

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