AiA 153: Conferences and Speaking 

On this episode of Adventures and Angular the panelists are Alyssa Nicoll, Joe Eames, John Papa, Charles Max Wood. They discuss attending and speaking at conferences. Tune in to listen to their opinions!

[00:01:23] Benefits of Conferences

Joe believes that attending somewhere between two and four conferences is good for a developer’s career. The minimum should be attending one conference a year. Some companies believe that people are wasting time because they are taking time away from work. They are of the mindset that they could learn the same information from a video. But John looks at it as developers learning how to communicate. If developers use their time well, they can potentially solve problems and find ideas they have never heard of and can learn how to implement them at work.

John believes the benefits to the developer verses the company are different. Developers could meet a potential employer who would pay you more than your current employer. For companies, if people want to leave, forcing them to stay may not be the best thing to do. Forcing someone to stay could lead to low productivity, which is not the best thing for the company. The more educated the employee the happier they will be, and happy employees stick around.

Charles believes that the reason you go is for things you can’t do at home. These are interactions, new thought processes, and mindshare. Companies that don’t give their employees chances to go to conferences are missing out on reasons why they hired them in the first place.

[00:09:00] Why Attend Conferences?

If the goal of attending conferences is to try to be better than everybody else, there are better goals. Go to conferences for yourself and your own education. Go to be the best developer that you can be.

Before you get to a conference ask – What are the problems you’re trying to solve at work? How do you keep up? How could a conference help me? How are people feeling about the technology? If you cannot find out information online, it makes it a huge asset.

Charles once heard a financial expert say you should get three to five times out of anything you do as you put in. Be sure to make the conference worth it.

[00:13:40] – New Trend at Conferences

There has been a noticeable trend at conferences for smaller groups to not watch sessions. They do not go to workshops, listen to speakers, or seemingly network with other developers. Instead, they just go to the parties with their friends. This could be a reason employers feel it is a waste of time and money for employees to attend conferences. Alyssa still thinks that people will take away something even by simply being around like-minded individuals.

[00:15:50] Companies Perspective on Conferences

Companies will want people who have experience with speaking at conferences. They will want those people who have influence in the community they have been speaking to. But sometimes, once the company hires them, they do not want them to speak at any more conferences. They get the job because of the extra things they do, but now they want people to focus on the job and don’t want to risk people finding another job.

People need to have a conversation about the values they and their new company have to see if they match. To do this they need make sure to ask questions to see if something they value, such as conferences, will be allowed to continue once they are employed. Some companies may not want them to go to or speak at conferences. Any company’s core value is to do business and make money. If they are not doing that then they cannot employ people. They may think that letting people attend conferences is holding up their production.

People need to be sure to think about the concerns the company has when negotiating. For example, there was an employee that wanted to speak at conferences, but was so valuable to his company that he could not leave. That led him to train someone who could handle things while he was gone. People have to earn trust from their employer. Some people do not think about how to do this; instead they give away swag from the company or tell secrets while speaking at conferences. This is a way to lose trust and potentially be fired.

[00:27:18] Alternative Perspectives

Some companies will send and pay for people to go to conferences; no questions asked. They will be happy that their employees were invited to represent their company. There may be rules about what they are allowed to speak about.

One thing to do as an employee is to always clarify if the contract is the same before going to speak at a conference. Make sure to continuously ask, “does this still fit for me?”

[00:30:45] Developers and Conferences

As a developer, attending conferences is good for your career. Should attend two a year. There are no negatives. Could never talk to another person, and still have benefits from sitting in the room.

[00:31:54] Becoming a Speaker

What do you want? All developers want different things. Some want to write great software, have a job, contribute, learn, but do not want to build a reputation. Some feel like they can make a difference and get excited about speaking. There’s not a right or wrong as long as you get what you want out of your career. Speaking is valuable and a good way to give back to the community.

[00:36:20] How do you get into speaking?

Start speaking at meet ups. Talk for five-minute intervals. Afterwards ask people to give feedback and do not take it personally. It will help to make you a better speaker. It is easier to know what you need to improve. helps you to find places to speak. Contact the organizer of a meet up and ask to speak. Two to three times a year hire a speaking coach. Look at this as a perspective of a professional who can give you advice to get better. It is easier to have feedback rather than self-evaluate. This also teaches how to get better at communicating with people.



Valerie Kittel


NG Houston 


Do not speak at the audience; bring them on the same journey you went through when you learned that thing you're speaking about.


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