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What you need to know to become a speaker

April 26th, 2014

You don't have to be super awesome to be a speaker.

All the speakers you see at conferences are not rock stars. Most of them are just normal people who submitted an abstract and were deemed good enough to talk about some topic. There is plenty of room for someone who is starting out.

It's no different than presenting in school: do some research, put slides together, present to people. You also don't have to know everything, just what you're presenting. I once thought that I might not be knowledgeable enough to be a speaker. But then I realized that working on stuff gives me unique experience. Others can learn from this experience.

You will get better and more comfortable very quickly. Before I presented at conferences, it helped me to present at local user groups. Just type in a city and programming language, and hit search. After a few years, I can semi-improvise a keynote in front of 600+ people. Yes, you get better very quickly. If you're not doing a keynote, chances are that you'll only need to handle a room of 100 or even less at smaller conferences (ask the organizers about room size if it bothers you).

If you really want to try speaking but simply can't find the confidence, try to co-present with someone. It's really about taking the first step. It get easier from there.

I want you to do two things in the comments:

  1. If you're already a speaker, share your "first step" experience to show what it feels like and to encourage others.
  2. If you're trying to become a speaker, ask me questions so I can help. E-mail me if you want a private discussion:


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