DEV Community

Cover image for Speaking at Tech Conferences - What to Talk about?
Josefine Schfr
Josefine Schfr

Posted on

Speaking at Tech Conferences - What to Talk about?

This is the second part in a series on speaking at tech conferences - it focusses on finding a topic and narrowing it down to make it a fit for different conferences.

So you have decided to get started with speaking at tech conferences? Congrats, making this decision is already really brave! πŸŽ‰

If you don’t instantly have a topic in mind that you would like to talk about, this part is for you. Let’s explore how to come up with topics and what your options are here.

Talk about …

… what you know
This might be obvious, but you could of course speak about a topic you consider yourself very knowledgable in. Something your colleagues often come to you about for advice and you have lot’s of niche insights in. It’s not necessarily the years of experience, that matters, but your perspective. This could result in a step by step walk through on β€œHow to solve XYZ…” or a cool project you worked on and would like to share.

…something you care about
Of course, you don’t have to be an expert at all to talk about something. If you are passionate about something, be it web accessibility, CSS art or a shiny new framework, this spark will captivate your audience. (At least In my opinion) it’s completely legit to explore a topic as part of developing a talk and share your learnings with your audience. I even once heard a fellow speaker saying that they had applied to talk about something to force themselves to learn it thoroughly.

Get inspired
Have a look at conferences you find interested and sneak a peak at talk titles and topics. This is not about being a copy cat, but rather getting inspiration - it will give you both an idea of the format in which talk titles are written and what other people deem interesting, and it might also spike your creativity for your own topics you’d like to address.

Your are not an island
We often tend to think our struggles or unanswered questions only come up for ourselves and that other people have got it all figured out. This couldn’t be more wrong - nobody does. So if you find a solution to an issue (technical or not) that has bugged your for way to long - don’t hesitate to share it with others.

Screenshot of answer the public website with a search bar that says "find out what the people are asking about..."

Answer the public
If you are still looking for questions to answer in your talk or are browsing around for the right perspective, answer the public might be for you. Find out what people want to know by entering any topic into their search bar and see what requests are made about this on Google. You can browse among questions, look for comparisons or even related searches to a topic of your choice.

These are just some of the many ways to come up with topics for conference talks. Once you get started, you will be surprised on how many different topics you can come up with if you stop your inner perfectionist from slowing you down. And remember: it doesn’t have to be super technical at all. Many meetups and conferences are also happy to accept β€˜meta’ or β€˜cultural’ topics and you don’t always have to do live coding to wow your audience.

How do you come up with topics to talk about? Do you have a strategy to brainstorm ideas or do topics just magically come to you when trying to fall asleep? I’m super curious how other folks do it πŸ™Œ

Top comments (5)

yuridevat profile image
Julia πŸ‘©πŸ»β€πŸ’» GDE

Great advice, Josephine. Thanks for sharing. Topics I can imagine to talk about are web accessibility (but not in depth now, maybe in a few months), how to get into tech, career switch, motivation, etc 😎

Nothing too technical 🫣

remotesynth profile image
Brian Rinaldi

Great advice. I'd say the perfect combination is something you know and something you care about. When my speakers ask what to speak on, I always reply by asking, "What are you most passionate about?"

That being said, I'd also add "Something you want to learn." It's a tough one because it can be stressful but proposing a talk on something you are interested in learning is a great way to push yourself to learn it. I've done this multiple times and, while it was a lot of work, it was also very rewarding.

andypiper profile image
Andy Piper

That Answer The Public site is super helpful, thank you for sharing. Fun to explore there.

teejay128 profile image
Joseph Taiwo

I probably won't be giving a tech talk anytime soon, but it wouldn't hurt to learn the skills, plus your tips also apply to tech writing: which I am currently learning.

Many thanks for sharing ❀️

jquinten profile image
Joran Quinten

That Answer the Public tool is pure gold! Thanks for sharing this series!