In the second part of this investigative mini-series on self-promotion, I talk with Dan Donald and find out about speaking at events.
Dan Donald is a web developer currently working fulltime for RetroFuzz in Manchester and taking on freelance work too. Dan has recently started to speak at events: so far, he has featured on a panel with Elliot Jay Stocks at Web Developers Conference in Bristol and spoke at several Barcamps.
How did get your first speaking gig?
Dan: It was quite random but I think Twitter played a big part in it. Part of trying to raise awareness of my name in the industry has just been to try and take part and be vocal if I have something to add to a conversation. I think Alex (one of the organisers) saw some of that and checked my blog out and offered me the gig.
Why have you decided to make the leap into public speaking?
Dan: For me, it helps to consolidate what I know and question it. You can do your job fine but when you have to articulate what it is you do to a group of people, it’s a different experience entirely. My big thing is the social web and the more social psychology aspects, which is more theoretical than practical, but at BarCamps I’ve had the chance to give that an outlet and get over my nerves in talking to an audience.
Have your talks/panels led to any unforeseen benefits?
Dan: I think to expect work to come directly from them would be expecting too much too soon. I think you have to be realistic and look at it as a means of self-promotion but one that takes time. If you look at what Elliot Jay Stocks has done over the last year or so with being a lot more seen at events and read on the web and in print. I’m looking to slowly build a niche and so I don’t have any expectations of results, whereas for Elliot, who is full-time freelance, it might well be more about being visible for credibility and work offers.
I guess one benefit is that at BarCamps and other events is that you can get to meet some really interesting people. At BarCampBrighton3 after dConstruct, many of the speakers were there as well as guys from MySpace and The Guardian so you have a chat over a beer and really learn something.
What advice would you offer to someone who wanted to follow your lead?
Dan: Don’t be afraid! I know the first BarCamp I went to I was really nervous about giving a presentation. I hadn’t been to hardly any conferences or meet-ups so I didn’t know what to expect; whether other developers had the whole one-upmanship thing. I talked about what I knew and wanted to encourage debate at the end – I knew I didn’t have all the answers nor was Ian authority on my topic, so I wanted to hear what other like-minded people thought.
It’s worth going to something like GeekUp, venturing to a BarCamp and getting to a conference like dConstruct or Future of Web Design – meet some people, start getting involved. Blog about your experiences and keep in touch with the people you meet, if only through Twitter.
What other methods of self promotion do you use?
Dan: I don’t do much freelance so I’m not tracking down all the opportunities I could, but I’m trying to build up my ‘personal brand’ (hate that term) and so once I settled on a name I wanted to use (Here in the Hive), I use it for anything related to me as a developer on the web. I read everything I can and comment when I have something to say so using MyBlogLog and setting up a Gravatar is a very simple way of having your image follow you around the web. I try to blog fairly often and use Twitter a fair bit too. Part of it is finding your niche, where you maybe fit into the spectrum of things from design, developer, front-end guy, hard-core coder, etc and build up a name for what you know and can do.
Have you done any public speaking or would you like to in the future?