Taking A Break From Conference Speaking

Over the last few years I have been very fortunate in being able to travel and speak at conferences all over the country. I have seen new places, met some really cool people, and made some really great friends. While traveling and speaking and meeting up with old friends is something that I really enjoy, this year I decided to take a break from conference speaking.

This has been on my mind for a while. I decided a couple of years ago that I was not going to speak at any more SQL Saturday events, at least not for a while, and instead focus on taking SQL Server presentations to various developer conferences. That has worked out very well for me over the years, and I will continue to do it, but for now I’m going to take a break, and here’s why:

It Gets Expensive

There is a lot of out of pocket expense associated with speaking at conferences. While most of the attendees at a conference have their employer picking up the tab, that usually isn’t the case for speakers. Usually conferences will give speakers a free ticket to the conference, and sometimes be able to help pay for the hotel stay, but a lot of times a speaker might wind up paying for all travel and/or hotel expenses.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. One of the reasons I got into speaking was for the free event admissions. It was my way of getting into conferences that my employer wouldn’t send me to. But as I have started speaking at more and more events, the expenses associated have also started to add up. In fact, when adding it up last year, I spent a couple of thousand dollars over the year to go speak at conferences.

It Takes Time

Building out the presentations and code demos can be very time consuming. When I submit a presentation to a conference, it is usually either an existing presentation that I have done before, or a new idea that I have and I want to see if anyone is interested. If a conference selects the new idea, I’ll put the presentation together. While that sounds good in theory, and it worked for a while, I have also had it bite me. One year I had multiple presentation ideas that I submit to a few different conferences. They all picked a different one, and each of the conferences was within a couple of months time frame. So that meant that as soon as I finished building one new presentation, I had to start on the next. Over the course of about 3 months it seemed that every free minute I had was spent working on presentations and demos, which meant time away from my family. That was a mistake on my part, and I’m not going to put myself in that situation again.

Then there’s the time on the road. While I’m usually only gone 2 or 3 days for a conference, I also have to travel some for work. There were a few times last year that I would be on the road a couple of times in a month. While I enjoy traveling and going to conferences, I do not enjoy being away from home that much, especially now that I have younglings at home.

I’ve Run Out Of Things To Talk About

(Most people who know me would laugh at that statement.)

The great thing about having a few presentations available is that you’ve got a variety of things to speak about, and the more you do the presentation the better you get at it. The bad thing is that after a while you need to come up with new material, whether that means updating an existing presentation or creating an entirely new one.

As my career has transitioned over into management, and I’m no longer doing as much hands on technical work, I’m finding that it’s getting harder and harder for me to find things that I want to present on. I try to keep myself up to date on new technologies and where things are going, but for me to be able to dive in and learn it at a level that I could do a presentation and demonstrations on would require a significant amount of time. (See
It takes time
above). At this point in my life I would rather go home from work and spend time with my family than sit back down in front of a computer.

I guess like anything, this comes down to time and money. You only have a certain amount of each, and you have to decide how to spend it. For me, I think I’m going to stay home for a while. While speaking at conferences is something that I very much enjoy, and I do plan on picking it back up, for now I think it’s time to take a break.

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