It’s okay not to speak

We recently spun up a channel on Email Geeks Slack where experienced conference speakers can informally mentor those interested in getting started. I’m very interested in doing what I can to help some new faces gain the confidence, experience, and attention to break into speaking so I don’t have to hear from these people again.

But I want to be very clear: It’s okay not to speak! And it’s okay to not even want to speak.

There are a lot of reasons people are drawn to speaking at conferences: To share knowledge, entertain, build a personal brand, attract career opportunities, travel, promote a company, increase their employability, earn some extra money, or some combination of several of these. I know the motives of speakers I prefer to watch but all of these are valid. (Except earning extra money. Very few people pull that off.)

And sometimes it can feel like a necessary next step in a tech career path to become a more public figure. On the other hand, it’s hard work, takes a lot of time, and might not be the best fit for your personality or skills.

You can get a lot of those same benefits with other activities. Many of these suggestions require much smaller time and energy investments than speaking but add up over time, and can also reach wider audiences.

  • Write — on your blog, in your newsletter, or for third-party outlets
  • Post on social media
  • Participate in a community
  • Organise or host events
  • Create tools or resources
  • Contribute to open source projects

And if you want to do none of the above, that’s totally fine, too. It’s easy to forget that there are countless people quietly going about their professional lives who are satisfied by just doing their jobs.

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