Wow, What a DrupalCon. Observations from a First Time Speaker
This year's DrupalCon, in my home town of Dublin, was a brand new experience for me. As a seasoned DrupalCon Veteran, (my first DrupalCon was in Paris in 2009), I thought I knew the ropes - how to choose sessions, what to expect, how to party like a bad-ass... I thought I knew what I would get out of it. Man, was I wrong.
This year's DrupalCon was not different because of the happy coincidence that had Annertech scoop a raft of awards at the Realex Web Awards on the Wednesday (including "Web Agency of the Year"), but rather because of engagement and involvement.
Before the 'Con even occurred, the local team was preparing content, answering questions and, in my case, writing the 24 Hour Guide to Dublin. Seeing my work laid out beautifully in print in the DrupalCon programme was an unexpectedly great pleasure!
As a local, I had the opportunity to MC a keynote Q&A session. That was enormous fun, made all the more fun by a fantastic speaker, Emer Coleman. Coming off stage was a rush, lengthened by the deluge of interaction on Twitter as I was mentioned and our conversation bounced around the DrupalCon Twittersphere.
There was also the personal interest in both other keynotes as Annertechies took to the stage to chat to their speakers - Mark Conroy speaking to Dries at the "DriesNote" and Alan Burke chatting with Eduardo Garcia during the "Community Keynote". Suddenly it was not merely about entertainment any more - I cared. It had become relevant to me. I met Emer on Tuesday, in advance of the keynote, which meant that I was excited about it for most of a day of Drupalcon before even taking to the stage!
The DrupalCon prenote is always good fun - and I was several years in before I even discovered it! This year, taking part in it was very rewarding - from getting to know Jam, Cam, Adam and the crew a bit better, rocking out with the O'Drupals band, endless 12-bar blues in between rehearsals and finally being part of a very entertaining half hour show, I really felt that I was now part of the community. And I definitely made new friends who I'll be looking out for next time!
It was my first time to give a session at DrupalCon, speaking on the topic of "Happiness is ... Remote Working". I had spoken at camps and at Dev Days in Dublin, so public speaking was nothing new. But at DrupalCon, surrounded by my peers, talking to people at the top of their game, in a room full of people far cleverer than I am, it was a brand new experience. Andrew put it best: "Level unlocked!"
Although it was my first DrupalCon speaking slot, I had submitted talks for several years before and it made me think about what I had been doing wrong. Firstly, one must be able to prove that one can speak, so camps, Dev Days, Front End, other conferences and speaking opportunities are all good ways to beef up your speaker CV. Evidently I'd managed to convince the program team that I had cobbled together enough experience. Secondly, I read the track descriptions, and submitted sessions that attempted to deliver the things they were asking for. This is something I had neglected in years past: I would decide on a talk, write it up, and only then read the track descriptions (or even just the name!). Obviously, delivering what the program team wants is the most important hurdle. Here's the video of my talk:
I have gotten better at selecting sessions over the years. This year as a whole is my 'year of design', with a personal focus on building front-end and design oriented skills. This served to narrow my choices, making session selection easier. My recommendations for session selection are:
- Select your sessions beforehand. Even if you narrow your choices down to two per timeslot, it makes your life easier.
- Look at the experience ratings. Beginner, intermediate, advanced: these refer to the amount of knowledge you need on the topic, going into the session. I have learned that starting your unit-testing career by going to an advanced session on PHP-unit will only leave you frustrated and feeling out of depth.
- Sometimes, a BOF is better than a talk.
- Don't stay out all night at the welcome party and expect to be able to think the next morning.
So with hindsight, I have finally realised what Stella had been saying and doing all along: volunteering to make yourself more than a net consumer at DrupalCon changes your experience to something far greater than simply a few days listening to talks. You become part of something bigger than yourself, and that is gold.
Now, with DrupalCon Dublin a happy memory, I'd like to paraphrase/mis-quote Emma, track-chair of the 'Being Human' track this year. "The reality of spending a week hugging sources of germs has hit me, I think I have plague and I couldn't be happier."
Anthony Lindsay Director of Managed Services
With decades of experience, Anthony leads the Annertech Managed Services Team, delivering top quality design, development, and, ultimately peace-of-mind services to all of Annertech's wonderful clients.