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This is in my TODO.txt. How would you go about achieving this goal?

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closed as too broad by gnat, Giorgio, MichaelT, Bart van Ingen Schenau, GlenH7 Nov 25 '13 at 12:17

There are either too many possible answers, or good answers would be too long for this format. Please add details to narrow the answer set or to isolate an issue that can be answered in a few paragraphs.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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Good post about the subject. ayende.com/blog/4596/how-to-become-a-speaker –  Pedro Jun 1 '11 at 20:44
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How is this not a real question? It's not ambiguous nor vague nor overly broad nor rhetorical. –  Anna Lear Jun 1 '11 at 20:48
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could apply to any field; nothing specific to programming here –  Steven A. Lowe Jun 1 '11 at 22:50
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See discussion of the close reasons here on meta. –  Anna Lear Jun 2 '11 at 2:19
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As you can see, the question has been reopened. Please edit it with Jeff's suggestions from meta in mind to make it more constructive. Thanks! –  Anna Lear Jun 2 '11 at 18:53
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8 Answers 8

up vote 14 down vote accepted

Many conferences have a period where they accept proposals for talks. How and when this is done depends entirely on the conference.

I imagine that getting asked to speak at one involves prior involvement with the conference or being otherwise well-known in the development community relevant to the conference. You can ramp up your involvement by joining open source projects, participating in local user groups, and getting more involved in social networking (online and otherwise).

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Writing a book helps, too. But it probably depends on the conference, I'm sure some are by invitation only. Others, like DevConnections, which is the only one I've personally experienced, have an application period, and you're accepted or rejected based on the perceived level of interest in the topic you propose. –  Joel C Jun 1 '11 at 21:14
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I'd begin by speaking at local user groups. It's fairly easy to get a spot (may be a few months out). Be sure to ask for feedback so you know what you can improve. For example, I spoke at the local user group, and then was asked to speak at the yearly "code camp" (a much larger event, with some serious sponsors).

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Most speakers (aside from keynote speakers) were not asked to speak. They submitted a proposal during the conference's call for proposals (CFP) period that was then accepted by a panel of judges.

If you want to be asked to speak at a conference, you need three things. You need to be a great public speaker, you need to know people who run conferences (or at least they need to know you), and you need to have something to say that people will want to hear. This requires practice, networking, market analysis and creativity.

Speak at every opportunity you can. Join Toastmasters. Give talks at local user groups. Submit proposals to conferences in your domain of knowledge (or even outside it, to give yourself a challenge). Make every possible effort to get feedback and then use it improve your speaking skills.

When you go to conferences, make it a point to find and speak to the organizers. Thank them (sincerely) for running the show. It takes a lot of work and they appreciate the support. Then ask them the same question you asked us. Who would know better than the people who choose speakers? Talk the speakers. Ask them if they have any tips for someone who wants to start speaking at conferences.

Watch successful public speakers (the keynote speakers at conferences you attend, people on TED, PopTech, Google, etc videos). Learn from them. Look at the kinds of talks accepted at the conferences you are interested in and try to figure out what their market (attendees) wants.

Above all, have something interesting to say and say it in a way that interests people. You'll probably have to work pretty hard on both of those things. I know I do.

Edit for edit: If you want to ask to speak, you still need all of these things, just not as much. It's far easier to ask than to be asked. In fact, asking to speak is (as already mentioned) a step along the path to being asked.

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Joining and speaking at local users group is a good start as Fammy has said. I spoke at a community conference last weekend. Community conferences are the next step for new speakers as it is less formal and the audience understands that you are not a professional speaker. I just had to submit a topic and people voted on all topics to select the ones that make to the final list.
I guess to speak at larger conferences (like Teched) you have to develop some solid credentials. So the talks you give, a good blog, creating/contributing to prominent open source software should all go to your credentials. As for the opportunity just submit your topic when call for papers is open and hope for the best.

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Learn to speak.
First and foremost, speaking to a user group is a great way to get noticed but first learn how to speak to an audience.
The second thing would be practice, practice, practice. Learning is cool but practice is where you become a pro. I would suggest finding an audiobook or a class that teaches rhetoric, watching famous speakers (Bill Clinton is a great example) and trying to speak to smaller less judgemental audience (spouse? partner?) to begin with.
When you fell you are ready go out there, get your materials sorted out and start talking to people.

Speaking is the most influential thing I have ever learned, and I strongly encourage to try it.

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Lanyrd has a great list of conferences and they also list upcoming calls for speakers.

I'm a speaker and conference organizer myself and the reasons I invite speakers is if they a) are great speakers (there are many videos and other ways to find out about those), b) they've created amazing stuff, c) they are super smart.

The best way to become a great speaker is to do a lot of speaking and to study your performance. It costs almost nothing to set up a tripod and a Flip camera to video yourself speaking. You will learn more in one watching than you could learn in a year of practice. Most user groups would be happy to have you speak and record yourself.

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If there is a particular recurring conference (or series) that you frequently attend and would like to potentially speak at, it might also help for you to get to know the conference organizer or some of the conference staff. It won't guarantee that you get invited, but it might help when your name comes on the radar, and you can learn more about how the speaker selection process works.

Plus usually (in my experience) conference organizers are friendly, well-connected people that are well worth getting to know.

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You need something that gives you authority on a topic. That can be a blog, a book or an open source project.

Then you use that authority to submit proposals for speeches on conference.

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