One of my favorite things to do in my last role was to get people to come in from other companies to do presentations for the developers in my department (and sometimes the wider organisation). This is a great way to establish yourself as a go-to “expert” in the organization. After all, you’ve brought in all these external contacts from big organizations and cool new technology startups! You must be in with the cool crowd and know what you’re talking about right?
It sounds crazy, but the hardest part of being the person that organises this stuff is organising a meeting room. Perhaps your office has more meeting rooms than mine, in which case it’s going to be really really easy for you.
People love to be asked to come in and talk. It’s a big ego boost and validation that you know what you’re talking about, and it’s great for your resume. As a result, most people will say yes (speaking of which, if you’re in the UK and want me to come and talk, drop me an email).
Further to this, most people will now blindly accept LinkedIn requests. This is a great way to message them or get their direct email address, although if you can get their email directly from google then that’s easier. It’ll usually be available on their personal blog. Also, they’re techy, so they’re going to be on twitter. It’s a really direct way you can contact pretty much anyone. Remember — the worst they can say is no.
This is also a great way to increase your personal network. If you’ve spent the time talking to the speakers and organizing it then you’re likely to have built a long term connection. Remember- your network is your most important asset as a developer.
The talks can be on anything, from a specific piece of software to a development practice. One of the things I liked to do was organize theme months — “HTML5 February”, for example — where I went out and contacted a bunch of experts, everything from solo consultants to Firefox, and asked them to come in and do a talk. As long as it was related to HTML5 the specific content was up to them.
A great tip: if you’ve seen a presentation online, maybe on DZone or QCon, find out if the speaker lives in the same country and would fancy repeating it. Even if they don’t, it’s still worth dropping them an email as people often travel for work.
If you’re not sure who you want to get to talk, just contact companies. Spotify, Microsoft, IBM, any big firm will gladly furnish you with someone to come and talk to your company. However this requires a bit more finesse. Particularly with the big B2B software vendors, there’s a tendency to send sales people who will bore the room to death with a pitch piece.
When you contact them, specify that it’s a developer audience and if possible specify what area you want the talk to be on, maybe how they do agile or DevOps, for example. Once you find out who the speaker is you can then check them out (again, LinkedIn is great for this) to make sure they are actually technical and likely to give an interesting presentation. It may still be hit and miss, but the big name company talks tend to be very popular in my experience.