Conference Speakers, Check Your Egos

Kind Note: This is a self-examination post. It is meant to be read and to ask yourself some honest personal questions. I didn’t have anyone particular in mind when I published this nor is the timing of this post (which took a bit of time to write) meant to have any significance. Only the reader (you) can honestly absorb this, reflect, and see if anything here (including some generalizations) applies to you.

The Other Side Of The Coin

Imposter Syndrome is real and from my observations most speakers have often experienced it (most definitely claim to have experienced it). I have experienced it. Even if you have been in an industry or field all your life or if EVEN you are talking about yourself (and you would be the ultimate authority on that subject) there is still that feeling of not feeling qualified to be on a stage or in the spotlight. That you aren’t good enough to belong there. That you’ll be judged. This can effect an individual speaker of any background, age, position, or experience. From first time speakers to those that have been speaking for decades.

There is also the OTHER side of the coin that doesn’t get often discussed. Not talked about in my experience because (my guess) it’s more uncomfortable to discuss… a subject more difficult for people to honestly self-reflect on and admit they have had thoughts regarding.

And that’s an over inflated ego (which i’ll refer to simply as “ego” for the majority of this post, read until the end).

Time For Deep Reflection

Although I am a developer and organizer I do also count myself as a conference speaker. As such, I wouldn’t be completely honest with myself I said the following thoughts I’m going to discuss have never crossed my mind. To be just as honest with you (the reader) as I am with myself though: just like many experience Imposter Syndrome, I know the below thoughts spoken from ego have crossed the minds of speakers. Perhaps why I’m so personally confident in this fact is that I’ve literally heard some of this admitted out loud (and no – you won’t see a hint of a name or identity of these folks). I’ll go even as far as stating that I’ve sadly have seen evidence of this thinking in public areas such as social media or at conferences.

Again, I’m not targeting anyone. That’s not the purpose of this post. If you ARE reading this then only YOU can be honest with yourself and reflect as you read: “Do I think like this often? Why? What is a proper or (at the very least) a “better” frame of mind or way to look at things?

“My Subject Is Vitally Important And The Community Needs To Hear It”

This is a great motivation to submitting a talk (seriously! passion is great!) but in a different tone this thought with ego makes one sound bitter if said after you haven’t been accepted to a conference. Newsflash: the reality is that almost every speaker who submits a talk feels the same way. The opinion of the truth of the importance of the topic can differ (I agree sometimes with speakers saying this sometimes too) but you have to admit this base thought isn’t unique. This is also another way of saying: “Without me knowing what the organizers were thinking, there are topics can could have been dropped and mine put up there instead.”

Your subject (and your take on it) is important, but often organizers aren’t weighing JUST your topic. Very often MANY other factors are in need of consideration. In addition (for all you know) OTHER people have submitted a similar talk too. Is your topic so unique that you are literally the only one that can give a talk on that topic (again, expectations: if it’s about specific software and you’re the sole developer)?

Look at this another way: if you ARE the only person capable of giving the talk then is there is a diversity issue. Can you take an honest look at the diversity of your industry and perhaps mentor new ones – especially those from under represented groups – to be able to speak on such topics? For example if you are the “only good speaker” on someone about the mutations of watermelons – then there should be more experts and speakers on the subject… in the end if you care more about the subject then your ego then you might want to think about how to get new speakers talking about this in your industry. Don’t be the “always go-to”. Share the limelight with others, especially in tech conferences when diversity and representation still aren’t that great.

“I Have Been Rejected From This Conference Before, So I’m Not Going To Waste My Time”

Granted versions of this can be legitimacy voiced out of depression or a result of imposter syndrome.

But that’s a different ballgame. Remember, we are talking about saying this from a place of ego. The feeling of seeing a call for speakers come up but you turning it down in a “they don’t deserve my presence or even mention” because of (usually multiple) past rejections, you not liking how the conference is run or managed, or even not liking the organizers themselves.

True: everyone has only so many hours in the day. Most experienced (and no experienced) speakers I know do not invest a great deal of time submitting talks to conferences (whether they are paid commercial conferences or volunteer based ones like WordCamps). Setting aside expectations, if you are devoting a great amount of time preparing a talk just for a talk submission, you might want to reexamine your tactics. Submitting a past talk? Great, you likely have a single submission for that talk already that you can briefly fine tune. “New talks” to submit can take a little longer but shouldn’t be that much more of an investment.

But going beyond the issue about investing time… is there another reason? Rejection is NEVER a pleasant thing. Few people take pleasure in getting rejected for a talk… but do you know WHY a conference decided to pass on you? Have they done this more then once? Have they even given feedback? Have you ever ASKED for feedback (in a non-defensive manner, privately and not asking on Twitter)?

Honestly from conversations with egoistical speakers it doesn’t have much to do with time or feedback (although many rightfully desire to know the “why”). At the end of the day it’s basically the fear of experiencing (probably another) rejection. The best advice I have to give for that: don’t let rejections stop you. Some of the best people in my industry (speakers or not) have had to overcome rejection in some form time and time again. You think someone who managed to start a successful startup or business managed to nail it on the first try? Or even the first half dozen? Some of the best speakers I know took multiple tries to get on stage (and they still get turned down from time to time).

Honestly ask yourself how determined you are. To be clear – to stop submitting to a conference does not simply equal to “giving up” or means you are any least of a person. We all pick our battles – your time and energy MIGHT be better spent elsewhere. The conference might not be the best fit for you – as much as you would love to shake that thought and will yourself into their speaker lineup.

Try to understand best you can why you are being rejected (conference organizers tend to change year after year so it might not even be same people). It will give your some closure and hopefully in the end make you a better speaker.

“I Need To Be Seen” Or “I Need To Be Associated With This Conference”

What makes this particular conference so important? Are you wanting to be there primarily just so you can add a prestigious conference to your resume? Why? Have you made past appearances and you feel like (perhaps knowing the organizers on some level) you are entitled (some refer to this as being on “The A List”)?

“Last Time I Got A Poor Speaking Slot”

I think I covered this decently in a previous blog post devoted to the subject, so i suggest you check that out.

The Pendulum

Egos alone aren’t bad. In fact, one could say help combat emotions like Imposter Syndrome. You ARE good enough to give that talk, to submit a proposal to THAT conference. Make your voice HEARD. I think of this as a pendulum that swings with one end representing the worst kind of Imposter Syndrome and on the other end being an inflated ego. The goal is to be somewhere in the middle as circumstances reasonably demand it.

Of course, this post isn’t written as if conference organizers can do no wrong. There are legitimate reasons to have certain emotions – especially if a conference has legitimately done something wrong (on purpose or more of oversight). Today sadly it’s still common to see groups under represented on stage at conferences. It’s so unfortunate that exists and fuels negativity and conflict (both inner and external). It’s not all sunshine and rainbows, and in this world sadly there is an uneven balance of challenges for some (some of which, as a white man, I’ll never experience) and privilegies for others.

However, the point of this post wasn’t to showcase all the particular situations speakers could face. It was for self-examination, an exercise. If none of this applies or has never applied to you, then fantastic. As for some others, an exercise like this could can be a great tool in setting priorities as you press forward in your endeavor to speak at conferences and events. I am an example of this myself and I still have at times issues to work through (and organizers by the way can have egos too, but that’s another post).

Hopefully if it is your desire to be a respected and effective speaker then realize it’s not just what you say on stage that matters… it’s at times how you think and act at times off the stage too. Especially when it comes to how you treat yourself.

Losing Over 100 Pounds – What Worked For Me

I lost 110+ pounds in about a year. Although I spend most of my time indoors and my social life pales in comparison to a platypus this didn’t escape notice from some. Although I don’t like particularly talking about my past diet or my health in general, I do realize I wondered how some people in my industry did it. I watched some health talks (some at tech conferences, so that trend has effected me directly) – and the speakers sharing what worked for them, why they did what they did… that helped inspired my changes.

So instead of repeating myself, I wanted to write this quick blog post and point people to it although i’m more than happy to be someone’s source of inspiration or point someone in the right direction.

Warning I shouldn’t have to give: i’m not a doctor or anyone even close to knowing medical things… your doctor should be the one who gives you real advice. In fact, this isn’t advice i’m giving but just things that worked for me. Everybody’s body is different.

Changing My Diet

Before: I was basically consuming half a take-out pizza, some fast food (I wasn’t big on fast food but it was good on the road), bread, pasta, and anything with carbs. On the brighter side: I wasn’t big on deserts or soda. I drank mostly water. I never smoked and was not a heavy or even a moderate drinker. This didn’t keep my weight down however BUT likely saved my body some additional damage.

After: Diet was I think maybe 80% of the reason why I changed and how fast I did it.

  • Stage One: Immediately go low-carb and no processed sugar. I initially still had bananas but eventually worked those out of my diet (natural sugar was still sugar). Made sure I ate some sort of veggies, even if it was a salad, every day. I did this for about five months.
  • Stage Two: Kept going but I gradually lowered my fat intake, ate more veggies. In the end though I discovered the right kind of fat in the right kind of amounts WAS good, so I just made sure if i was taking in fat it was from meat and sources that were “healthy” (coconut butter or oil, steaks or burgers that I cook myself vs getting something at a fast food place).
  • Stage Three: Basically trying to get as close to Keto as possible and tracking myself on an app. This means you eat a certain ratio of fats, proteins, and carbs. 30-50 carbs per day I think is the requirement. For Stage three I was keeping it at 20 or below each day.

For me, I couldn’t either find good pre-made food for Keto or most of it was too expensive. I couldn’t rely on anyone to cook for me, so I was kinda forced to try some Keto recipes for myself. I never cooked much in my life but in my early 40s i’m doing it now. Pizza, cinnamon rolls, brownies, and almond flour bread (which can be made into hamburger buns, etc.) are my favorites. I don’t think I would be as happy or even stayed on my diet if i didn’t learn to cook some dishes. Oh and fat bombs are great. It is amazing what can be made without real sugar and be low carb (sadly things won’t taste like Papa Johns or Wendys, but over time you will actually forget what they tasted like and my desire for them is a memory now).


Before: I had a desk job as a computer programmer. I didn’t do any sports and wasn’t active at all. My phone wouldn’t record more than maybe 500 – 1000 steps on a GOOD day for me.

After: I thought I could exercise more and stay low carb (stage one, see above) but I wasn’t losing weight fast enough. I made a goal of 10k steps per day for a year, which i recently accomplished. I did some cardo but it was basically going from no activity to being active. I think that maybe was 10% of the total plan. That’s not alot – diet is the biggest factor for me, but just to be ACTIVE I think improved my mental attitude as well. Still want to regularly work out at a gym someday but time hasn’t allowed me that luxury. But i’m still getting in 10k-12k steps every day, even if i’m still waking up at 5am to do it.

Personally if you were eating as crappy as I was and NOT being active, you might not have to go all “gym and exercise” nuts so don’t let that scare you. Diet is the biggest thing but I never did more than walking (although I did every day).


Before: I would literally eat any time I wanted.

After: Once I got maybe six months into my “diet” I was slowing down and then I heard about fasting. I wasn’t a big breakfast eater anyway so I gave it a try. At first it was hard – I wasn’t hungry most days (because by then my body was using my stored fat as energy thanks to Keto) but it was just a mental thing. I *should* be eating. In any case, you work yourself from eating at 2pm and 6pm to eating at 3pm and 5pm… and I got to a point where I ate one meal a day. It takes me about an hour or two to eat, but technically i’m fasting most days now 22 hours on average. Today i’m not fasting as much to lose weight but as much as trying to maintain my weight. And I’ll stop fasting for conferences or special occasions – and as long as i stay on my diet and don’t eat something stupid then I have no withdrawals when i resume fasting. Fasting was 10% of the total plan but it was an important 10%. It really helped push me over the line into “no longer obese” land.

Important to note that there’s little chance of getting all your nutrients on “one meal per day” so I started making sure I took daily vitamins and started using nutritional yeast.

Below is a screenshot of the app I use to track my fasts – Zero.