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I really enjoy teaching other people about new technologies and I am good at explaining things. However, in a lot of conferences I go to, speakers have decades of experience in something, whereas I am fresh out of a master's degree. How do I get conference organizers to grant me a speaking slot?

Are there ways to give an indication that what you have to say is worthwhile, when you do not have a lot of experience?

Or are there maybe other ways I can position myself as a speaker?

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why are people downvoting this? –  grasshopper Mar 31 at 19:44

3 Answers 3

up vote 7 down vote accepted

As someone who has served on conference committees for various conferences, our goal is to create an excellent conference. We are looking for speakers who are going to be part of creating an excellent conference. We have a call for participation that is open to everyone, and we also solicit proposals from people who we think have something of interest to share with our community.

If you're responding to a call for participation, then craft a proposal that will be awesome for that conference. Consider filming yourself giving a talk (even if it's not in front of an audience) to prove that you are a good speaker in addition to having a great proposal.

If you're going to approach a conference organizer to discuss how you could be a speaker there, then ask them what they are looking for in their speakers. You might get more insight into what that particular conference needs to do to be an awesome conference.

If you submit a proposal or approach a conference organizer and are rejected, then listen carefully to the reasons why you were rejected. Use this information to help you determine where you need to focus your efforts to make your next proposal more likely to be accepted. You might learn that your topics are more appropriate for another conference instead of the one that you had originally targeted.

While you're working on this, hone your speaking skills. Look for local opportunities to present, such as meetups or small conferences. Also establish an appropriate presence in your field to show that you know your topic. A blog might be appropriate to show your technical and critical thinking skills. Answering questions on an appropriate Stack Exchange site might be good. Go to conferences and take notes during the presentations to see what it is that makes a good presentation, as well as what makes a bad one, and use that information to help you determine how you can be a great speaker. While you're working on your overall goal of being seen as an expert appropriate for speaking at conferences, set yourself smaller goals that move you in that direction.

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Since I see that you're in tech, and I'm assuming from your name that you're female, I'll point to a couple of other resources. On Twitter, @callbackwomen frequently retweets calls for proposals from technical conferences. The Systers mailing list (systers.org) is a general resource for women in tech. It's a big mailing list, relatively high-traffic, and not necessarily what you want (based on this question). Since it has so many women in tech on it, there are plenty of calls for proposals and discussions of conferences amongst the topics that are posted there. –  nadyne Mar 31 at 19:33
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I think my answer is both age- and gender-neutral. At least, that's what I was intending. I listed the additional resources in the comments instead of editing my answer since your question was neither tech-specific nor gender-specific. I thought that pointers to additional resources more specific to your situation might be valuable. If you'd prefer, I'm perfectly comfortable deleting my comments so that there's nothing about gender in this thread. –  nadyne Mar 31 at 20:27

Start small with local events. Build a reputation there and then you will have something to show the larger confernces that you can sucessfully do a conference session.

Or:

Pick some topic to do that is new enough that no one has decades of experience.

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I suggest local user groups of various technologies. If you enjoy teaching, you may also want to take a look at Open Tech School. –  CMW Mar 31 at 19:05

My suggestions to you are: speak with confidence, research your topic, and rehearse throughly. If you've been invited to speak at the conference, you're clearly considered capable of speaking on the topic you're addressing. Research it, write your speech well in advance, and rehearse it to build your confidence in what you have to say.

Just because you're a young worker doesn't mean you don't have anything important to say. In fact, younger viewpoints might be considered more 'fresh' and 'interesting' than older ones.

But knowing your topic and being well-rehearsed will help you carry confidence in your speach, which will help deliver anything you need to say. Don't worry about your age - worry just about giving your best speaking performance, regardless of your age.

EDIT: I notice you're trying to sell yourself AS a speaker - for that, I suggest selling yourself on the merits I've mentioned above. You say your age is a detriment, so don't focus on it. Focus on what you DO have that you can advertize.

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Most of your answer is predicated on speaking at a conference. Getting there is the problem. –  JeffO Mar 31 at 19:18

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