As the year ends the next year is already right in front of your door, announcing upcoming conferences all over the globe. First of all: the probably "last" IBM Connect(ED) as you may know in January 2015, followed by ICSUG and EngageUG, IconUK and the next Social Connections. Maybe we will have another DNUG in spring and the MWLUG. Another DNUG in autumn and ending with SNoUG and DanNotes in autumn again. I think I forgot a bunch of regional conferences and meetups in this list. The key question for this post is: "How can YOU join, meet and greet and also take an active part of it?"
This post is about how to involve yourself, participate and get the most valuable experience of being around others who share the same interests and have a good time.
How to attend?
Easy answer: get yourself informed about the conference you want to attend. Check out the travel and accomodation conditions and calculate the costs. Check your agenda for collisions in you day job. Make sure your company will pay for it - and convince WHY you want to attend.
Submit an abstract and be an active part of it as a speaker. If you are familiar with speaking free in front of an audience or have practises in teaching others your knowledge you have the best preconditions to do a good job. Choose your topic wisely and give it a promising title. Cross your fingers to be accepted as a speaker. Keep in mind: you have to "work" for about an hour with full concentration. Before and after you enjoy all the benefits of being part of a whole. You'll get reputation and contacts and even future business opportunities if people see and hear you. Make the most of being there.
Choose a suitable topic. Be sure you can gain deep knowledge until the event starts. Prepare yourself for the presentation, prepare examples, prepare for questions beyond the topic. Prepare technically! Carry everything with you that might help you to overcome problems with the tech in the presentation area (e.g. adapaters for beamers, use a presenter device, expect to use a mic when speaking, consider to speak in a language other than your mother's tongue).
"How I am supposed to do all that?"
Stupid question. If you have anything to say, present or tell people that may be a valuable addition of someone's daily work then you MUST do it. Of course your topic has to meet some criteriae but you will know what is demanded when researching the conference's topics and audience. Even if you have "unusual" approaches, solutions or topics you may have a chance to be accepted - and have a successful session. It's not a question of how "popular" or "well known" you are. Everybody started as a "nobody", so you should also do. Afterwards you aren't a "nobody" anymore. People will remember you. So make sure you do your best job - and I assure you - you will!
My personal "Do's and Dont's"
Considering a maximum time of 45 minutes this list may help you.
- always talk to the audience, avoid looking at the wall
- search direct eye contact
- your slidedeck shouldn't have more than 30 slides
- use large fonts and pictures
- use short terms and bullets
- consider to have at least a live demo part, maximum 2 parts (with less slides)
- keep in mind the Q&A part at the end with approx. 5-7 minutes
- keep it simple
- speak in short sentences
- be straight but do it informally
- ask questions to the audience when appropriate to rise expectations
- BE YOURSELF
Finally: enjoy being there and be a part of the community! The real value of attending is not to be measured directly. But it will benefit in noticing you and your company.