Ben Scofield

me. still on a blog.

Speaker X Again??

I’ve seen one particular complaint about Ruby conferences fairly often over the past couple of years – people question why the same speakers tend to show up at every event, often with the same (or only gently modified versions of the same) talk. Having organized an event specifically intended to combat that trend, I’ve got some thoughts on the subject. Firstly, few people (relative to the size of the community as a whole) submit proposals. When the available speaker pool is small, you’re bound to get a number of repeats over a conference season. Secondly, many speakers just aren’t very good, which turns selecting talks into something of a crap shoot – some speakers are known to provide good, high-quality talks consistently, but most others are a gamble, with poor content or presentation skills. As a result, the known-good speakers are invited to and accepted for more and more events (which, as a side-effect, allows them to hone their skills and get even better), while the less-known speakers are left to lightning talks and other, more local venues (like user groups). So, how do we fix this? Here are two suggestions: Submit! If you’re nervous about speaking at a conference, start small – with a presentation to your co-workers or a local user group. There’s a nice path from local, focused events up to national and international conferences if you just look for it. The more people who submit, the more variety organizers have to choose from. Get better! This is a natural consequence of the former, but it’s certainly possible to improve as a speaker without having regular opportunities to present. There are a number of resources (books, blogs, etc.) that can help with all aspects of the presentation process. Heck, you could also just ask speakers you respect for their advice – most will be more than happy to provide feedback.