Can you give paid lectures for me?

How to start as a speaker at conferences, Part 2 - Lecture, the English hurdle and the conclusion

What is it like to hold a talk for the first time and how do you start as a speaker at larger events? You will find out in this article. Just like how I took the hurdle to give the talk in English at an international conference, and what conclusion I draw after a year as a speaker.

In Part 1, I got into the first four steps Written about making decisions, choosing a topic, finding an event and preparing. In both parts, I report on my personal experiences as a designer who gives a specialist lecture at tech events, although a lot can be generalized. So that the web and design industry becomes more diverse, I hope that these articles will motivate as many people as possible - including you - to start presenting yourself.

5. Give the lecture

Day X has come, today the lecture will be given. The preparations were long and detailed, but the moment is always different than expected. Shortly before that, I became more insecure about everything. Is the topic interesting enough? Is everything understandable? Have I really researched this and that correctly? Can I do that at all? Maybe I'm just imagining it? And so on. But at this point it is already too late to make changes. Now you just have to do it, go forward and ... go.

Is everything understandable? Have I really researched this and that correctly? Can I even do that? Maybe I'm just imagining it?

My pulse felt like a thousand beats per second when I was on stage for the first time at the webclerks meetup in front of around 40 to 50 people. But my worries were baseless, because as soon as the whole thing was up and running, it went like clockwork and was really fun. It is very likely that I spoke a little too quickly in a few passages, certainly I could have done some things better, but all in all it was a successful first talk.

The feeling afterwards was simply great: the conversations, the echo on Twitter, the motivation to deal even more with web typography (the subject of my lecture). The first step was done, now I wanted to do more with it.

6. Speak at larger events

Switching to larger events is therefore the next logical step and speakers are usually also sought for many specialist conferences, especially in the web sector. Call for papers or Call for speakers is the magic word and beginners can often apply here. So just keep an eye out for suitable events (such as on this practical collection list of Web Development Conferences 2018) and submit your talk there. Most of the time this is done via GoogleForms and often the same questions are asked.

But even if there is no call for papers, you still can contact organizers by e-mail, if you think your talk would be a good fit for the event. Maybe there is still a free slot that needs to be filled? In the worst case, you will get a rejection but you have at least tried and have already been in contact for possible future opportunities.

It pays to prepare the description of your own talk well. Hold it as short as possible and write them right away for the audience, so that the organizer can continue to use them directly. Why is? What will you be able to take away from it? Write the text in a motivating and practical way. What inspires the audience, also inspires organizers. More tips can be found in this blog article by CSSConf EU. The short description of my talk You Can Save Web Typography looked like:

The web is written language - and it’s also a mess, because most sites don’t present text properly. Typography to the rescue! In this talk you will learn how to boost your next web project with good typography. Several examples and live demos will give you a basic understanding of type and how to apply it with CSS in responsive web design. It's a talk for developers, designers and everyone in between. Together we can save the web’s typography - one paragraph at a time.

7. Oh dear! Hold a lecture in English

The downside of the larger events is that the lectures have to be given in English. English was a major hurdle for me, especially an emotional one. I myself rate my English level as the upper average (thanks to Netflix). Talking works better than writing and I'm unsure of some formulations, prepositions and vocabulary. Compared to German, however, when I talk about design, I simply have no words. And so far there was no need to worry, but then my previous day for the International PHP Conference 2017 in Munich was accepted and there was reason to be nervous. So I've prepared pretty well for it. I can give you the following tips:

It's easier when you have that Write the lecture directly in English instead of translating it exactly. Concentrate on the content (what do you want to say?) Instead of wanting to take over all facets of a possible German version.

Best you repeat the talk several times in English. You notice where you get stuck and where you have no words. Then find the missing phrases and vocabulary, write them down on the slide notes, and practice until they work by heart. In Leo, I often listened to the pronunciation of words that I was unsure of.

Practice the talk on a small scale, such as in front of friends or at another smaller event. I chose a suitable meetup where it was even compulsory to speak English and where I could try the whole thing. If you've done it before, the next time you'll find it easier.

False perfectionism only hinders you because it is much more important how you are talking and conveying the topic as if you are speaking perfectly and 100% error-free. And to reassure you: if you perform in a non-English-speaking country, there will probably be few or no English native speakers in the audience. So this audience is certainly more tolerant and inattentive when it comes to mistakes. Also the choice of vocabulary should in which case it shouldn't be too advanced.

The inhibition threshold soon sinks,for me after the second English talk and then it almost becomes normal again. So just trust, everything else will happen and you can always do everything better.


What can I sum up after my first year as a speaker? I gave six talks, five of which were my web typography lecture. I held it four times at meetups, once at a bar camp and once at a conference. So I've achieved my annual goal of speaking at a conference.

Aside from having fun, it was an insightful time:

The talks gave me another one Reason to deal intensively with the topic. Without this I would certainly not have done that exactly. And as I noticed when I was a teacher at Grafische, you only really begin to understand certain things when you have to explain them. I now see a lot in the context of a possible lecture and am now consciously collecting material for possible future lectures. So this is a constant motivation for me.

Another big win for me was that Contacts and acquaintances, that emerged from the talks. I had numerous interesting conversations, and I also got to know people who would like to work together further. It's great that people talk to you after a lecture and get into conversation more easily. In addition, I benefit from visibility within the community, which could have more of a long-term effect.

What I've learned is that you can only as a speaker at conferences should apply that interest you yourself. The lectures are rarely paid for (unless you are already a big player in the field), but travel expenses, accommodation and conference entry are usually covered. I have submitted my talk to quite a few conferences, even very technical ones, from which I hardly benefit myself. At the PHP Conference in Munich, where I finally gave the talk, it was nice to be, but also very boring for me, because I understand practically nothing about any of this. So from now on I will pay close attention to where I am applying.

I am curious about your experiences or whether this article could help you to take the next steps? Tell me in the comments! If you don't know the first part, you can read it here.

Category: PersonalBeginner, English, Experiences, Conference, Speaker