Why Presenting at Conferences is Worth All of the Stress

Blurred photo of man speaking infront of crowd

The following is the first in a series of articles discussing the lifespan of a presentation; from idea, to delivery, to archival and back again. When needed, we’ll take special note of issues related to programmers and presentations involving code. Enjoy.

I think you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who says doing a presentation is not stressful. From the writing and deadlines to the spotlights and stage, there is a ton to be anxious about. Many studies find public speaking to be people’s number one fear. So why do we do it?

Personal Fulfillment

At some point you need to enjoy it. I’m going to have a whole list of benefits but like anything in life, if you don’t enjoy it, it will show in your work. Now, if you don’t try it you’ll never know if you really enjoy it or not. So step one is to do it and do it a few times (we all fall off our bike at first).

With luck the chemical highs of making a connection with your audience will outpace the fears and anxieties and you’ll be excited for more presentations in the future. This is good for you, since presenting at conferences has many other benefits.

Improve Your Brand

Yeah, its sounds cringe worthy, but you do have a brand – it is the feelings and emotions that come to mind when someone thinks about you. You’ll enviably build a brand with your coworkers and local peers but if you really want to have career options and outside opportunities you need to meet more people. Conferences provide a great way to do this. If you work hard you can not only make new connections but you’ll be known as an expert in your field and get great karma by teaching people how to solve some pain or be more productive.

I know it’s tempting for some people to be heads down, working at their full time job, and ignore a lot of this seemingly fluffy stuff, but you need to look at the long term picture. The average tenure for a single job is a little over four years, and if you are a programmer specifically it’s more like 2–3 years. You will probably have more than a dozen different employers in your lifetime. The more people you know and the more highly they think of you the better options you’ll have.

You Learn 3x Through Teaching

It’s one thing to know how to do something. To teach that same thing requires a much deeper knowledge. In preparing for your conference talk you’ll learn a ton more about the intricacies of your topic. I don’t say that to scare you, its just something I’ve observed in my own work. If you have empathy for your audience (and you should, it’s probably the most important characteristic of a good teacher) you’ll be thinking of questions and issues that are bound to pop up during your talk. When all is said and done, you’ll walk way more informed.

The Power of Persuasion

As you get better at preparing for and delivering conference talks you will enjoy the improvement of many other skills, including the power to break down complex issues and the ability to persuade.

So much of what we do in life is persuasion through presentations; you present an idea to a prospective client; you present a solution to a possible customer. If you are building talks and presenting at conferences regularly, these persuasion skills will follow.

Just the beginning…

I hope by now you can appreciate the benefits and are interested in of doing (or doing more) conference talks in your field. Next week, we’ll continue this article series helping you get over the stresses with more recommendations and other guidance.

Next up: Brainstorming Your Next Conference Talk.

This article series is brought to you by: OwlDeck.

OwlDeck is a new macOS presentation tool for programmers and geeks who need to display code and love Markdown.

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