The Value of Speaking At Local Meetups

We’ve all heard about local meetups. We’ve read about the benefits and gotten pep talks about why we need to attend. In the tech industry, we are always pushing ourselves to become better, faster, smarter and more agile. The best way to accomplish that is, in fact, attending meetups. Or so I thought.

I was slow to understand the benefits of Meetups. For years, my co-workers touted the benefits of how meetups positively affected them, not only as developers, but as open-source community members. As a staunch supporter of open-source technology, the natural progression was to attend meetups and after a long fight, I eventually gave in. The experience was such a positive and uplifting moment. I was angry with myself for not doing it sooner. It wasn’t long after that I realized I should be doing even more.

Meetups led me to co-organizing multiple WordCamps (Local WordPress conferences) in Baltimore. MD and Lancaster, PA. It wasn’t easy, but the results were fantastic. Last year, Baltimore WordCamp hosted 36 speakers and 274 attendees. People from all walks of web-development life got together to learn, teach, and share experiences. It was magical, and being a part of that changed me. I felt motivated and inspired; however, there was still something missing.

It was time for me to speak. Time for me to share my knowledge, limited as it may be. It was time for me to contribute back in the most direct way possible.

Despite being exhausted, at the end of WordCamp, I made promise to myself: Within a year I would speak at a meetup. I didn’t know what I would talk about or what information I wanted to impart on my fellow developer, but I would create a talk and share it at a local meetup. Last month, I fulfilled that promise.

As a developer at Unleashed Technologies, I was able to give my talk, earlier in the day of the meetup, as a Brown Bag (our term for a lunch-and-learn). I was surrounded by my co-workers giving a talk on a topic that many of whom in attendance knew more about than I. Talk about standing on edge. After my talk, I received some fantastic advice from my co-workers, both veterans of Symfony PHP and junior developers, alike. I leveraged this feedback to make innumerable revisions just before the PHP Meetup.

At the Baltimore PHP Meetup, I was anxious, to say the least. The talk went off without any major hiccups (thanks to the Brown Bag; I was able to iron out some kinks). The group was incredibly receptive and the Q&A that followed was candid and remarkably informative. Following the talk, I spoke at length with a few of the attendees and it became apparent that my talk activated a switch in them. They were eager to learn more and put my findings into practice. In turn, I was inspired to learn from them as well. What a great feeling!

After the long hours obsessing over every detail and worrying if I was worthy of giving a presentation, it was gratifying to know that my talk dispersed inspiration for other developers to further their knowledge.

This is precisely why I won’t only encourage other developers to attend meetups, but I would also encourage them to consider speaking at one. Everyone has a story to tell and everyone has something to give back to the community, no matter how insignificant it may seem.