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Speaking At Conferences

Have you ever watched or attended a conference and been in awe of the speakers? How do they know so much information? How do they prepare a talk? How do they even get the courage to speak in the first place and what is that process like? In this episode we’ll delve into all things conference talks.

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Speaking At Conferences

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Show notes

  • Our speaking experience - 1:31
  • What can I speak about? - 8:03
  • What is a CFP? - 11:51
  • Benefits of speaking - 17:22
  • Drawback of speaking - 19:53
  • Speaker fees - 24:19
  • Preparing your talk - 32:19
  • Speaking advice - 39:27
  • How do I get started? - 46:04


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Kelly [0:00]
Have you ever watched or attended a conference? And but in all the speakers, how do they know so much information? How do they prepare a talk? How did they even get the courage to speak in the first place? And what does that process like? And this episode will delve into all things conference talks. This is a very special episode. Because it’s our last episode of the season, we’ve decided to release our podcast and seasons, which gives us more time to play out or episodes and schedule guests ahead of time. We’ll be taking the month of December off, and we’ll be back with brand new episodes in January. So with that, let’s jump right in. Welcome to the Ladybug podcast. I’m Kelly.

Ali [0:34]
I’m Ali.

Emma [0:35] And I’m Emma. And we’re debugging the tech industry.

Kelly [0:37]
Are you a developer looking for your next challenge meet Shopify, they’re on a mission to make commerce better for everyone. And they do things a bit differently. They don’t tell you how to solve problems. They give you the tools, trust and autonomy to build new solutions. They don’t want you to work alone, their structures so you can leverage the diverse perspectives across teams and everything you do, and they don’t pretend to have all the answers. They’re big enough for You to tackle problems at scale, but small enough for you to discover and solve new problems. If you’re a builder at heart who wants to solve highly technical problems, and you want to take all of your life experiences and apply them to a blank canvas, or if you want to access really powerful tools, Shopify is the place for you visit slash careers today. Okay, so let’s kick things off with talking about our experience speaking at conferences. I know both of you have way more experience than I do. So one of you go first, I can go.

Ali [1:31]
So I did not go to conferences for my first couple years in tech at all, like I had never been to a conference until I went to this one that my company sponsored at the time, I noticed that they do not have very many women speaking at all, like I think that they had one or two and they were all speaking about like, what it was like to be a woman in tech. And I think that that can be definitely a pattern but I After that call for papers, which is the application process that you go through in order to speak at a conference and I saw that was like, maybe I should apply and talk about a technical thing. And so I just really randomly submitted this calls for paper. This is before I blogged or anything like that up getting accepted and kind of spiraled from there. So I definitely took some time off before doing my second talk. But from there, I only count meetups and conferences combined. So I don’t necessarily know how many conferences I speak yet, but I think I did 20 something talks that first year. And then this year, I did like 15. I think,

Emma [2:42]
you know, Oh, my goodness. So

Kelly [2:44]
many. Yeah,

Ali [2:46]
it’s a lot. And it totally spirals though. Because once you do some, then people are like, Oh, you should speak it. I think too. And, oh, this talk would be awesome at this, and so just kind of spiraled from there. You probably experienced that too. But

Emma [2:59] that was part of your job wasn’t it was like Dev advocacy.

Ali [3:03]
Yeah, for a couple months, I was somewhat half and a half Dev advocate and software engineer. So kind of part of my job at that point. But for most of my time, I’ve been teaching at General Assembly, and it’s definitely not part of my job there. In fact, I have to take like my vacation days and stuff to speak. So definitely much more difficult, usually than it was when I was working at Dev. Yeah, for sure.

Emma [3:29]
Yeah, this was my first year speaking and conferences. I, I set a goal for myself this year to speak at one and I applied to wine, it was react, React girls, London, it was early this year. I think maybe it was in May, April, and I got accepted, which is super exciting. So it was my first conference. But then, you know, as my Twitter following kind of grew, I think I got contacted by a lot of different conferences to be a speaker, which is, you know, I was really grateful for those experiences and I think I agree to speak it. Maybe 10 but I ended up having to back out of four for personal reasons this year, which is really sad. But what I quickly realized is that trying to speak at this many as you know, your first go around is really, really tough mentally. So yeah, that’s my experience. I did some fun ones. I got to meet Ali in person and North Carolina, which was a ton of fun shout out to all things open because Todd did a great job organizing that.

Ali [4:24]
That was one of the best conferences I’ve ever been to.

Emma [4:26]
It really was and there were so many great speakers there. Kent Dodds gave a really great keynote as a Chris coyer and Tracy Lee, who attended

Ali [4:35]
Ashley McNamara, tears was so good.

Emma [4:37]
I loved Ashley’s. I thought it was super relatable, willing, Ashley will link them all down in the show notes and just so you have them. So yeah, that’s my experience. Kelly, have you spoke? You’ve spoken at some conferences, right?

Kelly [4:48]
Yeah, yeah. So I did my first conference talk last year in September. I add being in the e commerce space. I don’t really enjoy doing technical talks. I don’t really enjoy doing talks. On like development related topics in general. So all of my speaking engagements that I’ve done have always been ecommerce related. So I did my first one at Shopify pursuit, which was a conference for Shopify partners. That’s about starting an agency and growing an agency I did a talk for, it’s called the boutique summit. It’s for a bunch of people who own boutiques, and it was in Atlanta, and it was on like conversion optimization and that kind of stuff that bores everybody else. And I do Oh, yeah, I did one with with MailChimp as well on email marketing. So yeah, those have been those have been mine. I’ve been avoiding doing technical talks all of my life and I’m going to continue doing that too.

Emma [5:42]
That’s funny because I am on the same mentality. So I gave a live coding talk which was super ambitious given that was like my second talk ever and it was in front of like, nearly 1000 people on the most massive stage over and I gave a life coding talk building and portfolio with gas me and I nearly soiled myself. It was terrifying. And what I realized Kelly do is I don’t like giving tech talks, because then you get questions to like. So I gave a give. If you give a talk on a tech topic, people think that you like are an expert in like all these tangential spaces within that, like I spoke at a graph QL conference, which we joked the other day that what is it conference driven development where like, you sign up to do a conference, you don’t know what the technology in and out, but you signed up anyway. And graph QL day was one of those for me where I was like, Okay, I don’t really know graph field, like, let’s do it. And I gave a talk on Gatsby building a blog with Gatsby and graph tool and and people kept coming up and like asking these super technical questions about Gatsby with contempt for a job like all these other add ons, and I’m like, I literally have no clue. I much prefer like, talks or like the theoretical talks.

Ali [6:48]
Yeah, so I am totally the opposite, because I teach all the time. So or teach people how to code. And so I give technical talks that are two and a half hours long, like, twice a day. Most days, so for me giving like a technical talk, I’m so used to that this year at code land though I punches also an incredible conference, you should definitely check it out Colin, by surrounding Burke who does code newbie, it’s just the greatest and so I did a talk there about my journey and blogging and how I got into programming in the first place. And it was super deep and it was terrifying. I was literally having like a panic attack the whole morning like I was full body shaking before I went on and so for me doing the like, this is my life. This is how I got into programming that is so much scarier than doing something tactical because I’m so used to the the technical stuff.

Kelly [7:42]
That’s so interesting. See, I find that the my life experience talks to be so much easier because nobody can be like, Well, actually, that wasn’t your experience. Nobody can question me because I was literally my life. Well, actually,

Emma [7:54] Kelly Shopify is not Spotify.

Kelly [8:00] I get that a lot. Yeah. keeps things interesting.

Emma [8:03]
You know, we just briefly touched on this, what can you talk about was the first time, you know, is wanting to be a first time speaker? Does it have to be technical? And then the short answer is no, it does not a lot of soft skills. So when I say soft skills, I don’t mean skills that are less important than tech skills. They’re just skills that apply across any job field versus hard skills, which are those that are going to apply directly to, you know, the tech industry in particular. So soft skills are something that are really comfortable, and not taken as seriously maybe as tech skills. And if you give a talk on soft skills, or like I just gave a tech talk, a tech talk, a talk on culture and how different cultures collaborate, communicate, and how that can enhance your team’s productivity. It doesn’t need to be technical, it can definitely be theory based. It can be based in psychology can be based in team building, so long as you know, it’s going to be relevant in some way to the audience. I generally find organizers are super laid back about it not being technical.

Kelly [8:56]
I think it’s a really great addition to any kind of conference talk like schedule in general, because not everybody’s going to relate to every single technical talk. That’s, that’s there. But the non technical talks are super relatable, you know, especially if they’re just like, personal growth, how to learn, you know, everyone has their own experiences, but we can all learn from each other’s experiences. And that’s why these, these non technical talks are so beneficial.

Ali [9:21]
Totally, I d]o two talks that are kind of non technical. And these ones don’t make me nervous. It’s really just telling my life story that that makes me nervous. But so I do one on blogging and one on teaching. And those two, they always get a bunch of people that come to them and people are really complimentary. So definitely, even if they’re not like how to write graph SQL queries, people still totally benefit from that.

Emma [9:46]
I think to even if you decide you want to go the technical route, it doesn’t have to be live coding, and additionally, it doesn’t have to be expert level. When you attend a conference. It’s very much mentally draining to sit through talk after your talk that is like expert level Tech Talk. And so like Kelly mentioned, like having non technical talks to break up that struggle of having to retain attention. Those are really good. But also beginner level talks are also great, because not every attendee is going to be an expert. And it’s also good. So when I spoke at that graphical conference, and I wasn’t a graphical expert, I did get people coming up to me after saying they really appreciated the low level, or high level, depending on how you look at it like the beginner introductory talk, because they themselves are also beginners and a lot of these expert level talks. They don’t tell you what the acronyms are, they don’t like explain what all these different technologies are. And when you can give a beginner level talk it’ll reach, you know, maybe some of the audience who up until that point was not engaged. I

Kelly [10:44]
think that’s a really a really good point. I think I really like one on one level talks for that specific reason. Because when you’ve been in, you know, involved in a certain technology for so long, you forget what people don’t know. And these one on one talks are really great operation. Especially for new speakers who may not have a ton of experience on a specific target topic to like, you know, test the waters and see you know what it is that they do know, because they know the beginners, the beginner level, they know how they learn because it’s more, you know, recent history. So I think that having those those one on one level talks are definitely a great option.

Ali [11:20]
Yeah, and I think oftentimes, intermediate people out of topic are the best people, they give beginner level talks, because they have been through the introductory process really recently. And so they still know the pitfalls. They know the difficult parts. They aren’t so entrenched in that world that all the jargon is so part of their vocabulary that they don’t remember what it’s like to not know what things mean. So I definitely think that you don’t have to be this like, hundred times expert to speak about some topic.

Kelly [11:51]
Cool. Let’s talk about the CFP process because I have never actually participated in one before. It’s all like because I’ve only done like commerce related topics I’ve been asked to speak at these very specific events.

Emma [12:04]
Yeah, so CFPB, since we’re call for paper, and so essentially, like a conference stating to the public that they’re looking for speakers, and the way that I have experienced a call for papers, typically, it’s like an online forum, like a Google forum, and you will go and you’ll add a talk title and abstract. So like, I don’t know, around 150 to 200 words explaining a high level what your talk is going to be about, maybe more detail about the talk itself, maybe the structure of what you want to go into, am I ask you the length of your talk, or if you’ve given it before, and if you could link to the recording of it? I think those are the main things that they asked for alley, do you remember them asking anything else?

Ali [12:44]
That’s pretty much it. There will sometimes be like additional information sections, and if it’s a workshop, what other things you need for the room. But yeah, I think that’s that’s a great overview of it.

Kelly [12:56]
I’m so fascinated by the fact that it’s called call for papers when there’s an actually being like written down it like I come from, like a background of like science and research. So when you’re going to a lot of these conferences like the first ever conference I attended was called the obesity conference because it was all about obesity. And so there are a lot of like posters that people were presenting, but it wasn’t just like, you go into a room and listen to somebody talk. And then you leave the room and you go to another session, it was much more like physical, you walk up and see what they’re doing what they’re presenting, you read the research. So it’s kind of interesting that it’s called call for papers, even though I feel like you’re doing that

Emma [13:31]
it’s because it has its roots in like scholarly articles for review and consideration for publication. So typically, you would submit, you know, like a paper abstract and hopefully get it published. And that’s kind of where it came from. Although I don’t know why they didn’t like change the name for this.

Kelly [13:45]
Yeah, that’s exactly it.

Emma [13:47]
Yeah, I think, you know, developers don’t like naming things. I will say to you, so like I’ve also reviewed call for papers before and if you’re curious how some organizations do it, so a lot of conferences will Pre reach out to speakers, they typically will pick a few speakers that they know they want. And they’ll reach out and ask them to speak. So not every speaker you see speaking had to submit an application or call for paper, those that do typically believe that they’re done anonymously. So the way it was, from the conference I reviewed was, like, I got a spreadsheet with I don’t know, maybe 15 different call for papers. And I had to rank them on different aspects, like how interesting would this be or how relevant and rate them like related to each other or relative to each other, but they were all anonymous, so that you know, your identity or your social presence was not impacted? So I thought it was pretty cool. I don’t know if they’ll do it that way. But

Kelly [14:39]
I like the idea that the reviews being blind because it definitely removes a lot of biases you may experience.

Ali [14:45]
Where do you normally find or I guess, just Emma, where do you normally find open CFP is?

Emma [14:52]
So I was actually invited to a slack organization called conference it was previously called Oh my gosh. Something that sounded really inappropriate.

Ali [15:03]
Yeah. Logorrhea or something like Yes, yes.

Emma [15:06]
Yeah, I don’t, it just doesn’t sound very nice. I guess they renamed it it has like a little rainbow poop with a sunglass is the organization logo. I was invited that by natter dab it. So that’s a really good place. If you can get invited to that organization. They have like a call for paper channel. But I would just recommend like googling, there are a ton of different articles on like, really good tech conferences to go to check those out, and then follow them on Twitter because often they’ll post like when they have a call for paper. That’s how I find a lot of the ones that I want to go to.

Ali [15:36]
Yeah, there are some sites to that round them up. So Mozilla tech speakers has a site with open calls from viewers they have a Twitter account to there’s also paper call which is a site where you submit calls for papers to and they you can set up search alerts so they’ll email you every day with new CFP is open up. There’s another really awesome site too and I’m forgetting the name off the top My head, but another really great site for looking at them to will link them in the show notes. And then the last one is the Dev avocado newsletter. It always has open CFPB in it too. So we’ll link all of that in the show notes.

Emma [16:12]
What was the site that you said rounded them all up?

Ali [16:16]
The first one is paper call, which has a recall. You can submit CFP through it.

Emma [16:21]
That’s really cool, honestly.

Ali [16:23]
Yeah, totally. And so you can set up like alerts so you get emails every day about new ones.

Emma [16:29]
Love that.

Kelly [16:30]
Yeah. So for the really dedicated ones. Everything Yeah,

Emma [16:36]
yeah. So now that we kind of delve into like this call for paper process like let’s talk about when you get your first acceptance because you know, I don’t know what you alley but like, I don’t know how many conferences you applied for. I’ve applied for a lot, honestly, and I’m kind of rejected from a lot. So if you get rejected late, please don’t be discouraged. I would also suggest you really work on your call for paper because you know, conferences receive a lot of applications and if yours is not really well done or really detailed, it’s probably going to get thrown out, like find a little niche or find something really interesting, something catchy, that’s going to grab users attentions, because if you just write down react hooks, you know, that’s not going to be necessarily unique and it’s not going to grab the organizers attention. So don’t be discouraged if you get rejected, but also like, do your due diligence and like, actually make sure your safety is good. But okay, tangent, I want to dive into like the benefits of speaking because there are a lot of them. I’m going to share my favorite one, which will two of my favorites. So the first is getting to meet the people in the industry that I admire and have admired for a long time. And also just new people. And the second is traveling because traveling is expensive. And getting accepted to a conference is a very great way if they pay for your travel in your lodging to see the world. What about you guys? What are your favorite?

Ali [17:52]
I think the ability to teach and share what you know is really, really cool. I also like that You have to dive so deep into a topic like you can know something really, really well. But still to talk about it, you have to go so much deeper and your research, like I’ve never really given a talk on something that I don’t know a lot about. But even still, you still in order to fill up amount of time you have to research and look at other people’s opinions and read blog posts, all that and it gives you this like very directed thing that you have to study and prepare for. So it’s nice for learning as well.

Kelly [18:30]
Agreed. I also just like the like a sense of accomplishment that comes from finishing a talk as well. You just went you put a lot of work into preparing this talk and putting it together and practicing. And by the time you’re like at the end of it, you’re like yes, I did it. I didn’t. I’m still alive. And I just spoke in front of some number of people and I got to share everything that that’s interesting to me. I absolutely love that part.

Emma [18:53]
Yeah, and I think to to Ali’s point about like, being able to teach and being able to learn something new by preparing and also learning So anyway, listening to the other talks is really great because like, I know for me personally, I would not be able to afford going on these conferences between the travel and like the conference tickets like I would not be able to afford it. But when you speak to Billy, they’ll let you also watch all of the other talks and so that can be really great way to learn new things

Kelly [19:16]
for sure. I think also it’s worth mentioning that speaking also opens up additional doors for you as well you know, if you are applying to speak at certain conferences, you know, you might be invited to speak at a future future conferences because they they heard your talk and they want you to give it at their conference or you know, it can open up some doors for for even like jobs, because you know, you’re a subject matter expert in a certain area and there’s a company out there who wants to hire you because they know that you know your stuff.

Ali [19:43]
Totally. I’ve gotten offered cool contract girls through speaking and also obviously a lot more speaking gigs too. So

Kelly [19:53]
for sure. So let’s talk about the downsides of speaking and one Mr already touched on travel It’s expensive. And you not always getting you know your your travel and lodging covered by speaking. In fact, I don’t think I ever have I know that that’s going to change or you guys might have a different answer. But yeah, I’ve never actually had travel or lodging cover when I’ve been speaking. So that can get can get kind of pricey and it’s just a time commitment not only for preparing a talk, but for the time you spend traveling and and you have to take time away from work and you have to make that up somewhere.

Emma [20:29]
Yeah, I have been very, very fortunate that every conference I have spoken out has been covered travel and lodging wise, if not for that I definitely could not afford to travel to these places and do all these amazing things. I would also say a downside that we don’t discuss is for me, it’s it’s burning out an imposter syndrome. I said yes to every single opportunity basically that I received this year in terms of speaking and that was insane because this is not my day job and so is doing this all curriculum and I think I prepared three different talks from scratch, one of which was a 45 minutes long. And so it’s really, really hard not to burn out, but also your confidence in yourself. And your knowledge is severely questioned at least it wasn’t in my experience of like, Am I smart enough to be like half people pay to come see me speak. It’s a lot of pressure, especially knowing that like, people have paid to be there. And you want to make sure that you respect their time. Yeah,

Ali [21:30]
I totally relate to a lot of this. So actually, for me to travel is kind of a downside to some extent is really cool to see different places in the world. But I get so panicked by flying and being in some other place, like a hotel and not being at my house and sometimes not knowing anybody in that country and not knowing anybody at the conference. And so that can be really anxiety provoking for me and you know, You do get to travel to these places. But it’s not like you’re having these free days where you can just do whatever you want, you mostly get a couple hours in between the conference dinner and the talks or something like that. So it’s not like it’s just a paid vacation somewhere. It’s really you’re going to speak and you’re doing the conference and not like you’re going to tour a bunch of areas, and then definitely feel the burnout and time commitment. I have definitely overextended myself the last couple years, especially since it’s not been really part of my job other than a couple months in there. And also the the expenses at first two, I will only accept stuff that pay for travel and lodging just because my work does not pay for that at all. And also paying for those trips is just completely unrealistic. So I only accept those opportunities, but that that being said, there’s still a bunch of incidental costs like Uber’s and meals out and things like that, and so it’s still expensive even though the travel and lodging is usually covered. Then also, I think experiences at different conferences with the people there can be really, really different as well. Like you can have these awesome positive experiences and have a ton of friendships that come from it and meet some really incredible people. But then there are also the people that that are really not great either and have had some really tough experiences with that as well and actually stopped speaking for a while because of that. So yeah, that’s definitely a downside to

Kelly [23:27]
I think one of the anxiety inducing parts for me as well. is q amp A at the end of a talk. But yeah, I don’t know what they’re going to ask. And so I don’t want to be like blindsided by a question. I can’t answer. I know you experienced that with the graph. QL talk you did. You seem to handle it well, though.

Emma [23:43]
No, luckily, that was like one on one. So I’ve actually explicitly asked conference organizers like for no q&a. And a lot of them now are actually not including q&a as part of the talk. There are a couple ways around this one, make sure your talk like takes the entire time to just Go to the conference organizers and tell them you’re not comfortable doing a public q amp a. And you can also explicitly state to Hey, you know, you’re welcome to come up to me after and talk with me more. And if you don’t know the answer to a question, there’s no shame and just saying, you know, like, you know, I’m not sure or you know, you’d have to admit that just say, you know, you’re welcome to come up after and chat with me a little more like that.

Kelly [24:19]
So I think we should talk about speaker fees a little bit. I think so too. This is taboo. It is taboo. And I think there’s a lot of misconception around it.

Emma [24:29]
So this is something that I was curious about this year. Because, you know, given that this is not my day job, and I have taken vacation days for every single conference I’ve traveled to, that’s time that I could be spending with my family. And that’s valuable to me. And so, I have decided that I’ve had two parameters for my conferences next year. It’s either a I wanted to go to this conference for whatever reason, like it maybe it’s in a city or a country I’ve always wanted to visit or maybe they’re amazing speakers and I want to go speak or two. I’m going to start Asking for a speaker fee. The reason being I am giving up paid time off essentially to do these things. And I, I’m not certain why this is such a taboo subject to discuss because, you know, Ali mentioned this earlier, like, I’m not rich. And I think there’s a misconception that like, oh, like you have a lot of followers like you’re doing well, you’ve got a lot of income from different places, you must have a lot of money. The the reality of it is as well, it’s really to be Frankly, I don’t think it’s anyone’s business how you spend your money or, or you know, if you have a lot of money. For me, personally, I have a lot of medical debt in the US and for me, all these side projects that I take on, including now asking for speaker fees for some of these conferences, that goes towards trying to pay off my debt. And that’s not something I share publicly. But when you just hear the Oh, this person’s asking for a speaker fee, you know, they’re high maintenance or they are just trying to milk the system for all the money. My response to that is, well, I have a lot going on financially. I don’t make public and in all honesty, I don’t think that is anyone’s business to No other than mindmeld I know that’s a hot take, but this is just where I’m coming from is my time is valuable. I, you know, I could be spending with my family, I could be also making money to pay off my medical debt and other ways. And so if a conferences making money off of me if they’re selling tickets, and using my platform to do that, and they’re a for profit organization, I think it’s fair, I think it’s totally fair to ask for some of that profit if you’re giving up your your time and, and all of that. So that’s my hot take of that. And what do you think?

Kelly [26:31]
I think it’s a it’s an important thing to point out though, especially like, I’ve never organized a conference before. I don’t know what goes into it. But if you’re making money from a conference, this is a business for you. And if you’re having speakers come to that conference, those speakers are essentially contractors, they’re working for you to speak and in that case, I feel like they should be paid. Again. I it is a heartache. But in the CFP process, I would treat that like a job application, you know, as far as wanting to Make sure that you know you put your best into it. But if you’re treating the CFP process as a job application, you should treat the actual speaking engagement itself like a job as well. Like, it’s like you’re contracting essentially. So I am I’m a big fan of speaker fees, I understand that not every conference has the budget to to pay for speakers. And in that case, you know, I’m, I’m totally fine with that. Like, I, if I if I find a topic that’s really interesting to me, and I want to give my time to speak, I’m not going to ask for speakers be in that case, just because it’s like a trade off in that sense. But if they’re going to be profiting off of me, I want to be compensated for my time.

Ali [27:38]
Yeah. So for me if I’m doing local stuff, so stuff that’s right by where I live, I’m totally fine. Not taking money and not being paid for travel or logic or anything like that, because it’s helping my local community and, you know, I like the opportunity to teach I think that especially when I was starting out speaking was really great for boosting my profile on the local level. Unity and like, building up a brand, whatever that means I hate that term. But you know, I think it probably makes sense to most people. So I think definitely a first it is really worth it. But I think of how many hours I’ve done a free work for people who have then made money off of that. And this isn’t just speaking at conferences. This is, in general, like doing interviews for people and all that, like people have made so much money off of my free work, since I raise my profile. And I think that there’s a lot that’s really hard about that, especially, like Emma said, like that we have a lot going on in our lives, too. And it’s not like just because we have a lot of followers, we make huge amounts of money or anything like that. So especially when we’re getting asked nonstop to speak at things. We have to somehow kind of weed through that and figure all of that out. So I definitely think that speaker fees are important. I also

Emma [28:56]
just want to preface this real quickly with the fact that I recommend Well coming from this place of privilege of having these opportunities and be having these conferences who are able to essentially foot the bill for a lot of these things. So yes, this is us coming from a privileged perspective, I just want to acknowledge that not everyone has this privilege. But at the end of the day, you also if you’re a content creator, you always have a right. It’s your intellectual property, it’s your hard work. And if, and if you feel like you should be getting paid for that, there’s seriously no shame and just stating that, you know, and if a conference wants to pay you if they have the ability to pay you, that’s great.

Ali [29:36]
And I will also go on the other side of that, that if you are able to speak at conferences and not be paid for it and not take a speak and not have them pay for your travel and hotel and all that that’s also a total position of privilege that you have the funds to do that, and most people don’t and you’re going to get a very specific demographic of speakers who are able to do that. Most speakers are not going to be able to

Emma [29:59]
I think I’ve also Seeing people who can actually afford to travel to these conferences, and all of that, you know, on their own dime, actually asked the conference to sponsor someone from an underrepresented group. I think that’s a fantastic idea. So if you are able to actually afford these things, ask them to, you know, sponsor an attendee who otherwise might not be able to attend, I think that’s a great idea.

Kelly [30:20]
I love that. Especially I know, it’s, it’s expensive, especially if you’re, you know, let’s say it’s a conference here based here in the US. And there are a lot of like, really, really, really talented people at say, in Africa. And like, it’d be really great to have them come out to the conference and speak but it is expensive to have that distance traveled. So to be able to sponsor somebody else is is really, really great. And I think I absolutely love that idea.

Emma [30:49]
And one more thing I just want to just throw out there because I remember there was a tweet maybe a few months ago, the fact that we all also have the privilege to travel Internationally, I speak these conferences is something we don’t really discuss coming from the United States, we have a lot of privilege that people from other countries don’t. And I’ve seen on Twitter, in particular people discussing the fact that, you know, if they come from a different country where the passport is not as strong for whatever reason, they can’t actually attend a conference. And that’s really awful. And I think we as speakers, need to be minus conference organizers to please be mindful of the fact that, you know, if you ask someone from a particular country to speak, please help them with their, their visa or like the legal things that they need to actually get there. Because not everyone comes to the United States, not everyone has the ability to just hop on a plane and go through customs. It’s not that easy. And as a speaker, as well recognize the fact that if you’re able to just get on a plane and fly to Europe and speak and not think twice about it, like that is a huge privilege, and not everyone has it ability. So, you know, I’m not sure exactly how we can help people who are not in in the same position that we are. If there’s something if you know how we can help people in these positions, please let us know because it’s something I personally wanted to learn more about. But I’m just to be honest, I’m a little ignorant of how to do so. So if you know, please just send us like a DM, because I’m genuinely interested in learning how to help. Agreed. I love that.

Kelly [32:19]
So let’s talk about how you prepare a talk. I’ve done a few of them. But both of you once again, have much more experience than me. So how do you to go about preparing your talks that you’re giving?

Ali [32:30]
So for me, I have actually other than my very, very first talk, I’ve done all of my talks based off of blog posts. So I’ve had the blog post first, and then transfer that over to a talk and so I have a nice outline for it. I’ve got the content kind of filled in, and then can then extract the key information out into slides and add more stories and stuff like that, but most of my speaking is done on an invited basis. based off of my blog posts, and so they kind of translate over to that. And that makes preparing a lot easier. That means that there’s a lot of practice that goes into it a lot of refining the slides, I used to build my own slide decks from scratch using code. But now I am transitioning over to Google Slides because there’s so much easier. And so yeah, lots of preparation, reciting things, having people look over stuff, making outlines, filling those outlines and all of that. So it’s a ton of ton of work. But lots of research goes into it. Lots of outlining and extracting, keep it and stuff like that.

Emma [33:35]
I know, Danny, remember, I had posted a blog about how he writes this conference talks will definitely link that in the show notes. I like alley like I think having a blog post written first is a great way to do it. And I approach these types, like if I’m giving a workshop, I’ll also do this we’re all essentially create a blog post first, because that serves as an outline. And at that point, you can look at it and say does this make logical sense? I think one of the things that I’ve started doing I’ve actually read a lot of books about how to give good talks. I can link again a couple in the show notes are really good one.

Kelly [34:09]
Did you just email me? rude? I sure did.

Emma [34:14]
It was called what demystifying? Do you miss demystifying

Kelly [34:16]
public speaking we should just

Ali [34:18]
like a spin off Ladybug about books because we all read a lot.

Emma [34:22]
I do it did Didn’t we didn’t we doing about books or now

Kelly [34:24]
think we talked like whatever about us episode we mentioned like,

Ali [34:29]
favorite books, but there’s like this podcast I listened to. That’s all like book reviews. And I feel like we would be good at that. Anyway. Okay.

Emma [34:36]
Anyway. Yeah, I love it. The book I’m referring to is one about TED Talks. And it I think it’s like a case study essentially, like the top most popular TED talks in history. So there are two TED Talk books. One is I think called talk like Ted wasn’t a huge fan of that one. The second one is all about. Let me just look it up real quick, so that I can state it. It’s called so the first one was the official Ted guide to public speaking. I wasn’t a huge fan of That. The other one, I’ll have to link in the show notes. Oh, talk like Ted that. Okay, I am right. I’m not crazy. Ted Talks. The official Ted guide to public speaking was the one I wasn’t a huge fan of talk like Ted takes nine public speaking, public speaking Secrets of the world’s top minds. And so it examines and runs through these case studies of the best TED talks to date. And I loved that one. And so I’ve tried to turn my tech talks even into having a narrative because if you have a story that follows from you know, the first slide to the last slide, you’re going to definitely hook the the listeners attention. So I like to focus on the hook of my story, like what’s the story I’m telling and then from there, what logical pieces or what characters do I need to introduce like, think of it like you’re writing a fiction book, right? I don’t know that’s, that’s very prosaic. Yes,

Ali [35:48]
sir Rania Barrett go to the Caribbean cup. That’s amazing. She has a really, really great talk about speaking as well. And she talked about how it should be really a story so that it’s stands out from a blog post, essentially. So you’re taking somebody on a journey. And I think, in general with teaching, if you’re not having somebody actually practice with you and do exercise and stuff like that, it’s not going to sink in. And so that’s why I think hyper technical talks can actually go, be not the best enough format, because people aren’t going to learn super super wall in that format. So I think instead, if you’re trying to get people excited, that’s the best thing that you can do in a talk,

Emma [36:25]
for sure. I want to I want to switch gears and quickly talk about what tools you can use to actually create your presentations because I get this question a lot. And I’m going to be honest, I’m like a serial tool user. Or like, I literally tried every possible tool out there for presenting. So like I’ve done keynote, I’ve done Google Slides. I’ve done slides conscious built off of reveal JS doesn’t reveal. So you can actually use code to edit your slides, which is neat. And there’s also deck set, which is a really cool like native application that you can use that comes to like a lot of visual presets, but like I’m going to be honest right now my biggest struggle when building a talk is like getting So focused on the visual design of my slides. I am awful with that, like, I’ll sit there for like 45 minutes. And just like screw around with like the font family. And I’m like, I don’t even have the content. And I’m just sitting here like messing with the visuals right now.

Ali [37:14]
I totally feel that my initial subjects were built with. It wasn’t revealed JI, Empress JS, Empress JS, which is similar to real VLJS. But it’s a little bit funkier like, you can do some really interesting things with it. And then I had web Web Components built on top of it that I had all my personal brand stuff. And it was awesome. They looked super cool. And like minute my personal site, and it was awesome, but so much work. So I’m using Google Slides now and

Kelly [37:42]
I use Google Slides, I created a template and I just reuse it for all of my talks. And it’s great. It’s perfect. I could not spend too much time tweaking the actual design of the slide because I will be like Emma and spend more time doing that that actually I didn’t expect into the slide deck. So, yeah, Google Slides. Really great option if you’re not doing anything super.

Emma [38:06]
I just actually purchased a license today for this website called and Votto, which is like one of those design, everything asset sites, and they have like a ton of keynote keynote templates, as well as like Google slide templates. They also have like, motion, motion graphics and sounds like you pay like a monthly subscription, or like a yearly subscription, you get access to all of these templates, backgrounds, fonts, like anything you could ever want from design assets, like they have it. So we’ll link that as well down below because I’m going to, I’m definitely going to check that out for my next conferences.

Kelly [38:38]
I think another one you can look at, and I don’t know if they actually have presentation decks, they definitely do creative market. So these are all one off purchases. So you can find like a specific presentation slide deck template that you like, and you know, based on whatever software you’re using, and it’s not there’s no annual fee that comes with that. So you just buy it once a year, you’re good to go. Create a mark is really cool because you’re also supporting a lot of freelancers. I am definitely going to buy some things on here.

Ali [39:03]
I’m a huge fan. I use that for a lot of my website building too because they’ve got a bunch of design assets like SVG and stuff that are really nice. So highly recommend and pretty fonts to like their font. Cool. How about this day of speaking because that’s kind of the the finale, all of this all these hours go into applying and preparing and then you get the tiny little pocket so so what is our advice for doing the talk itself?

Kelly [39:32]
I think the most important one, and this is based on my own experience is when you’re rehearsing, it’s not just reading through your own slide deck is like silently you need to actually practice out loud and hear yourself say the words and then if you have somebody you can actually, you know, present your talk to especially if you’re just getting started and learning how to do these these conference talks. If you can actually present it just somebody else. Really, really useful because they can provide feedback provided the kind of person who was going to, you know, not hold back until you when you said something that doesn’t make any sense or just comes off wrong. I find that to be really, really helpful.

Emma [40:09]
That’s awesome. Yeah. So my first talk ever I gave it a local meetup. I actually forgot to breathe. And like, by the end of it sounded like I’d run a marathon. He was actually quite mortifying, so like actually take time to breathe, and additionally bring water. I don’t know, I envy speakers who don’t need water, but I get up there and I’m like, I trashed the desert for a month. So I always bring water. Typically I’ll try to bring one with a straw if possible. Just because of then I’m not like having to open a water bottle. And just everyone had to watch me actually my first real conference talk. I had to like walk across the stage and actually like pour water into a glass and drink. And like everyone had to sit there and watch me and it was terrifying. So I would say those are my two biggest But to your point about rehearsing. Even if you think you’re the world’s best public speaker, you still have to rehearse like, I took this for granted and I Got a little too confident in myself and I gotta need rehearse and then you speak in front of people and you’re like you forget how to speak. Especially this is something I totally took for granted too. But if you’re going to be a conference talk in your non native language or like a second language, definitely also rehearse and also props to people who give conference talks and a non native language like I have enough trouble speak English. So totally.

Ali [41:23]
So I have advice here too. So first, I go over my slides a couple of times morning of so before my talk, so I just have like a last run of looking through my notes looking through my slides and maybe tweak some things because that happens unless you’re you had to turn in your sides early which happens to I also always this is probably a personal one, but I always dress in something that makes me feel confident to something that I feel good and that usually dress up a little bit. wear shoes that are comfortable to shoes that you can walk in, not eaten child heels that would be painful and terrifying to walk. On stage in those, but if you’re comfortable with them all the props to you super impressive and do my hair and makeup and all that too. And then re before IO blast Britney Spears music because it makes me feel confident and calms me down a little bit. So I just listened to that on repeat. And so that’s kind of my advice. It’s a little bit untraditional, but for me it really, really helped out to feel my best in a lot of different aspects.

Kelly [42:29]
I have one more thing to add to rehearsing. So people have different approaches to practicing their talks. Some people don’t prepare any kind of notes for themselves. Some people prefer like little note cards like bullet points that they use, like just like the speaker notes section on the presentation software. Some people will practice basically memorizing their talk. It’s going to vary from person to person what works best. I will say that I I’ve seen and I’ve known from experience that if you go the memorization route It can really throw you off if you’re expecting to know everything from from beginning to end and have every single word memorized. Because when you forget a word, it kind of like makes you stumble, it becomes a little bit more difficult to kind of catch up from there. Yeah, I’m a fan of speaker notes, just like on a little speaker notes section on the presentations. It’s called to speaker notes. Yeah,

Ali [43:22]
and a lot of conferences will have fancy setups, too. So you have your speaker notes on the screen in front of you, and your slides behind you. And they have this like, really nice thing. So

Kelly [43:32]
yeah, and this might be my lack of experience, but somebody wants told me that you’re going to remember about 80% about of what you actually want to talk about. And that was that held true for every single talk that I’ve given to date. So I kind of plan accordingly when I’m planning my my talk to forget some of the things that I’m I intended to talk about and kind of add that into my my overall time. I don’t know if you do have the same experience or if that’s just a very very me thing.

Emma [43:59]
Yeah. Yeah, and I also just want to say to you like you’re the only person who knows what you wanted to say. And if you forget to say something or like, you say something, maybe not the way you wanted to phrase it, like, own it, because no one knows what you were planning to say. And don’t beat yourself up about it.

Ali [44:14]
Also, technology always fails when it’s like magical like your internet will go out your computer won’t hook up to the projector like, that’s not just you don’t worry, it happened and so be prepared for it to some extent, but at some point, you can’t be Yeah, well, yeah, just happens. It’s not your fault. It happens to everybody that please

Emma [44:35]
download your slides locally to just to have in case and also, like, it’s not a bad idea just to have like one or two things that you could banter about if you need to up on stage, like live in front of people, like come up with a couple topics in your head. You’re like yeah, like I you know, your favorite pumpkin recipe or something. I don’t know. I don’t know. I like pumpkin. So like I would be fine talking about that. But

Kelly [44:53]
you know, I’m really big on self deprecating humor. I had the computer completely free. up on me 10 minutes into a talk in April, and I had to restart the computer and it was an old system. And it was not my computer. And so it took about five minutes to get back up and running. So I basically had all the self deprecating humor and banter for five minutes. So yes, that is really good advice there to to plan for the unexpected. Another thing to note is that, you know, Emma gave that that live coding talk, there are certain conferences that they will say you cannot do anything live coding. So it’s really good to recorded demos of what it is that you intended to show, just in case you can’t do the live coding for whatever reason you do have a fallback?

Ali [45:39]
Yeah. And also the Food Network approach for demos to where you have the finished project that you can pull out just in case your live coding goes wrong. You could still be like, Oh, well, we have an error, but this was what I thought

Emma [45:54]
you’re gonna have free samples just to say she’s

Kelly [45:57] gonna I’m gonna remember that one. Oh, that’s it. Great idea to if you want to feed me at a conference talk. I mean, by all means,

Emma [46:04]
that’d be super fun. I am still waiting for spaghetti. In any case, I think as a last note, and we should maybe discuss, how do you actually get started? Where what is the first step that you can take if you want to speak at a conference?

Kelly [46:19]
I think speaking at meetups, like local meetups is a really great first step. It’s a smaller audience. It’s usually you know, people are not paying to be there. So there’s there’s that pressure that’s been removed. As we’ve discussed. There’s pressure that comes with, you know, people paying to see you speak. And it’s just really good practice.

Ali [46:36]
Yes, and meetup organizers, you’re always looking for speakers that you never find people as a former meetup organizer. So you don’t have to go through this like a super absurd CFP process that has a 3% accept rate you if you want to speak at a meetup, chances are they’ll be all for it. I also would say start applying for CFPB is but something that I also do, that would be a huge piece of advice to anybody listening is I have a repository on GitHub that is public with all of my CFP in it. So you can go to that GitHub repository and look at it. And so what that does is I get a lot of invited speaking off of that, because maybe the talk that I submit isn’t perfect, but one of my other talks in that repository does fit the conference better. And you can also social media that so you can tweet it out, or you could post it on Dev or something like that. And maybe some onlooker could see that and you can get a speaking gig through that instead. So plus, you get to show people what you’re doing too. So highly recommend having a repository of see a piece.

Kelly [47:37]
I have one just side comment to make here. If you’re not interested in speaking at conferences, that is totally fine. You don’t need to speak at conferences to further your career. It is not a requirement whatsoever. If is it public speaking is not a thing for you. That’s That’s fine. Don’t feel pressured to do it. If you don’t want to do it. If you don’t want to attend conferences, that’s also totally fine. going to conferences unless they’re ecommerce related. And I Elliot ever really wanted me to go to all things open, but I decided to stay home instead. rude. We missed you. I did Photoshop myself into that picture and it was super creepy.

Emma [48:16]
I won’t even add it to our show notes.

Kelly [48:19]
You can you can go back through Twitter history and find that if you’re really curious Yes, it was super creepy picture and I was really pleased to do that.

Emma [48:29]
Anyway, if you liked this episode tweet about it will select on Twitter to win Ladybug stickers each week. If you know someone you should be a guest on our podcast, please visit our contact page on Ladybug Dev to submit a name. Now we are taking a break for the holidays and we’ll be back with a brand new season of the Ladybug podcast on January six. So thank you so much for all of your support and our first season and we can’t wait to show you what we have lined up next. Thanks again to Shopify for sponsoring this episode. See you in 2020.