Why Developers Should Speak at MeetupsTalking Your Way Ahead

Microphone placed at a developer conference in front of a packed auditorium of attendees prior to a keynote speech

Why developers should speak at meetups

I am the organizer of the AngularJS Vienna meetup. I started it in early 2014 motivated by conversations with some residents of the coworking space I was at the time. It was an instant success — around 50 people showed up for the first meetup. The list of members has grown to 450 over the last one and a half years and 50 to 60 people show up at each meetup. In addition I was able to line up quite some sponsors for drinks and food in exchange for the opportunity to pitch jobs and projects.

I only face a single challenge: lining up enough speakers. I believe that all developers benefit from giving presentations at meetups quite a lot so I want to elaborate on this in a little essay.

You will get a deeper understanding of technology!

New technologies are popping up all the time and almost every developer is fascinated to get into them, either driven by your employer or pure interest. You start using it for your spare time projects or on your job believing it will solve many obstacles you face. But to be blunt, many times it doesn’t work out that well, simply because you do not understand the technology full. There is an uncertainty regarding its advantages and even more importantly its disadvantages.

Preparing and giving a talk about a technology or aspects of it require you to think harder: what to tell the audience; how to explain how things work; why to use it — the benefits; and why not to use it — the drawbacks. Almost certainly you will have a better understanding of the technology. This is quite a list of benefits but it does not end here: people will ask stupid and intelligent questions challenging your points. If you have questions to the audience yourself there will be somebody discussing them with you afterwards during the socializing part of the meetup.

You become visible as an expert!

Giving presentations is primarily about sharing your knowledge and experiences with others. We have quite often heard that “sharing is caring“ — talking at meetups is caring about a community with a common interest, giving back in exchange for others giving to you. I care a lot about this because this keeps the meetup going, interesting, prospering. There is an additional benefit to speakers — they become visible as experts!

You will improve your communication skills!

I have very often heard the arguments “I am not good in giving presentations“ and “I do not feel comfortable talking in front of a lot of people“. But let’s be honest: you have never really given it a try, have you? I can assure you that everybody was very nervous the first time, myself included. I am still a bit nervous when I walk up and start to talk despite having done it many, many times during my career. I talked in front of developers at meetups, at conferences, in front of customers and management. Nowadays I feel confident and safe because I have had practice. Only a few people are naturally safe in front of a larger audience. Most of us have to learn it the hard way — trying more often and harder.

You will benefit in many ways from this in your career as everybody values clear communication — your managers, your colleagues, your customers and your community.

Now you are ready to give a talk!

Great but you might wondering what to talk about! There are many ways to find a topic in my humble opinion:

  • Pick something you have experience with, you are confident that you know how to do it — there are always people without any exposure to the technology, to libraries you used, your approach to get things done and troubles you ran into it!

  • Pick something you want to learn — preparing a talk about something new is a great way to learn things quickly!

  • Ask your colleagues and friends what they are interested in. BTW, doing a talk together with him or her is great way to reduce stress and people love to listen to double conferences, they tend to be more fun!

  • Get in touch with the organizer of the meetup — they know always topics the audience is interested in!

  • Always include your opinion — people benefit a lot hearing opinions providing, preparing the basis for good questions and interesting discussions!

Finally, before you start to prepare read What makes a good tech talk. Very helpful!

The next and final step!

Fire an email to the organizer of the meetup with your proposal and figure out the details — they are all happy to support you I can ensure you!

Many thanks to @michaelbromley, @sharifsbeat, @FloorDrees and @__tosh for input and comments!

This article first appeared on Medium and has been republished here with the author’s permission

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Hannes Stiebitzhofer is the organizer of the AngularJS Vienna meetup. You can follow his writing on Medium and on Twitter