Conference diversity is a window into the tech community's diversity and is a ratio we can all help to change. By Suzanne Axtell (Technology Evangelist, O'Reilly)
We collectively bemoan the fact that there aren't enough women in the technical community. But in order to raise the visibility of women in the industry - as well as encourage girls and young women to join the industry in the first place - we all have to make like Sheryl Sandberg says and take a seat at the table. Or, as the case maybe be, a seat on the stage, particularly at events where XY is the chromosomal majority.
Speaking at conferences not only helps reinforce the fact that women are thought leaders and technical experts too, it's a great way to spotlight your company and your projects. It's also one of the best ways to build your personal brand and quickly increase your network.
Don't think you're enough of an expert to lead a session at a conference? Think again! Conference organizers don't need you know every little detail about an entire technology - you just need to describe a set of best practices you've developed or detail a case study. Have you been procrastinating learning about a tool or technique? A speaking deadline is a great motivator to make sure you do your homework and pick up the skills you'll need to impart to an eager audience.
Not sure what to talk about? Tell the story of what you learned from a failure, or the process you used to solve a programming challenge. Check out recordings from some of your favorite conference speakers and explore SlideShare for popular topics.
Now that you've made the resolution to speak at events, ask around your network and check out Lanyrd for likely events to seek out speaking opportunities. And yes, this is also a shameless plug to submit proposals to speak at O'Reilly conferences. Two calls for speakers are currently open for our mid-2013 events:
- Velocity - our web operations and performance conference, happens June 18-20, 2013 in Santa Clara. We'll cover building resilience into applications, infrastructure, and teams, operations escalation and outage handling patterns, production datastore architectures at scale, NoSQL, mobile performance, effective cloud computing, and more. Deadline for proposals is January 10.
- OSCON - our convention for all things open source, happens July 22-26 in Portland, Oregon. In addition to the latest information on on open source technologies, OSCON will explore the open web, open standards, and open data, building a business around open source, innovations in user experience, cultural changes, cloud computing, geek lifestyle—hacking, productivity tips, and maker culture, among other topics. Deadline for proposals is February 4.
When your proposals are accepted, you can polish your presentation before you take the conference stage: rehearse with your officemates, take it to your user group, or join a speakers meetup group or Toastmasters. Even if your proposals aren't accepted, why not start practicing for the next time you submit? You'll have refined the presentation and will feel that much more confident, both as a speaker and an expert.
Once you're a regular on the conference circuit, be sure to update your resume and social media profiles with "conference speaker" skills. Don't be shy about letting your network know about your speaking gigs - and the conference organizers will appreciate it, too. That includes adding your presentation information to Lanyrd and Slideshare so other women (and men) can learn from and be inspired by the resources you share.
Finally, spread the word about how awesome it is to be a conference speaker. Alert your colleagues to speaking opportunities that might be appropriate for them and encourage women you know to join you on stage at events - even literally by inviting them to pair up for a presentation if they need help taking the plunge.
Conference diversity is a window into the tech community's diversity and is a ratio we can all help to change. Here's to more women - including you! - on stage at technical events in 2013 and beyond.
Photo credit: Erik Gregg on Flickr.
Women 2.0 readers: Will you resolve to speak at a tech conference (or event) in 2013? Let us know in the comments.
About the guest blogger: Suzanne Axtell is Technology Evangelist at O'Reilly. She is on a mission to help bring more diverse speakers and participants to our events, particularly women, people of color and other groups traditionally underrepresented at tech events. She is interested in media, publishing, social networks, marketing, SEO, location awareness and open source. She is an avid writer, crafter and knitter. Follow her on Twitter at @SuzAxtell.