Have you ever wished you had a job where you got paid to travel? Or to write restaurant reviews? Or test the latest gadget that comes out of Silicon Valley? You might be able to do that, without quitting your day job. And it might be easier than you think. I’m talking about being a speaker or presenter at a conference or trade show.
There are two web sites that I’ll put out here now: http://lanyrd.com (a play on the word “lanyard,” which is that dopey name tag rope thing you wear around your neck at the conference) and https://calltospeakers.com. Both sites also have Twitter feeds you can follow for additional information. Both sites allow you to register and create profiles of things that you are interested in, follow people you want to see speak, and even show where you have spoken in the past (or will be in the future). These are just stepping stones, though. There are a lot of conferences and special interest groups and trade shows looking for speakers. You can be one.
Take a look at what speakers have said in the past at the conference you are interested in. Look at the videos of previous talks and check out http://www.slideshare.net for public versions of the presentations people have given in the past. Take all of this and try to find a new angle to present something that you know something about. It doesn’t have to be life-changing or revolutionary; some of the best talks I’ve attended have been about simple topics that I never took the time to learn on my own. Now comes the fun part:
Start using a mind mapping tool like FreeMind or Xmind (Google for links) or even a pad of paper to jot down some ideas. Review and expand and play with the ideas until you think you can get a 20 or 40 minute talk out of it. Presentation slots tend to be 30 or 60 minutes long, so that leaves time for questions and a bio break before the next talk starts. Take your ideas and put them into Powerpoint or Prezi or Google Slides and start telling a story. If you really know a lot about electric car design, it’s okay to get technical, but if you just want to show how great your hybrid car is for the environment, then tell the audience a story that will compel them to think about getting a hybrid themselves.
Before you go too far into animations and slide transitions, submit an overview of your talk to the conference coordinators and see if you can get a slot. Sometimes, they will pay for your lodging, meals, and hotel if it is a big enough conference, but you should at least get a free ticket to the show and you can attend for free to learn about everyone else’s great ideas. If you’re approved, start working on that presentation, practice your delivery, and remember to speak slowly.
So start thinking of things you have been successful at in the past (business processes, technical skills, obstacles you’ve overcome) and find places to showcase your successes in the form of a talk or presentation to others. Your success at one conference will give you even more background and clout to try for a second, third, or fourth. Success brings success. Next time, we’ll look at how to present confidently and make it look like you’ve been doing it forever.