Presenting 21 talks in 2016

When I got my first conference acceptance for 2016 from PHPUK back in early November 2015, I had no idea that it was the start of something much bigger.

Over the years I’ve been fortunate enough to build up my speaking experience. Starting with PHPNW taking a chance with me back in 2012, building up to giving two conference talks in 2013, two conference (and three user group) talks in 2014 and three conference talks in 2015. I also managed to teach a tutorial on Vagrant and Ansible four times between 2014 and 2016.

I was happy with getting a handful of speaking opportunities each year, but towards the end of 2015 I wasn’t getting the opportunities to progress elsewhere that I wanted, so I decided to double down on conference speaking.

Yesterday was my 20th talk of 2016 – compromising of 11 conference talks and 9 user group talks (with a bonus user group talk to come to make it 21!). I’ve delivered seven unique talks, plus dozens of small changes to each talk for every event. Each of these talks takes somewhere between 25-30 hours to put together initially, plus 2-5 hours for each additional presentation. It’s not a trivial endeavour, each talk can easily take a full work week to prepare and rehearse.

Now, not every talk has gone as well as I’d have liked. Early in the year I did overcommit, teaching a tutorial and giving two new talks at two different events in three days. Whilst the tutorial and one talk went well, the second talk suffered and for that, I apologise.

On the other hand, I managed to give some talks that have turned out to be my favourite talks that I’ve ever given. Automation Automation Automation at PHPUK is a great example of this. Automating vim is something that most people don’t expect is possible, and several people provided feedback that the talk really made them think.

If you’re interested, you can find a list of talks on the talks page. This contains the talk abstract and details about where and when it was presented, along with slides and a video if available and feedback on

When I tell people that I’ve given 20 talks this year they’re usually taken aback, assuming that either I love public speaking (I don’t) or that I do this as a job (I don’t do that either). I speak for two reasons. The first is that I enjoy learning, and the best way to make sure that you understand something is to teach it to someone else. A lot of my talks are things that I want to learn about, and presenting provides an drive to learn. The other reason is that it’s a great networking opportunity. I’ve lost count of the number of great people I’ve met over the years at conferences – all of which I know I could call on if I’m ever in need, whether I’m looking for work or need a hand with some undocumented behaviour in Composer they’re just a tweet or an email away.

Next year I’ll be doing less speaking. Honestly, I’m exhausted. I don’t do this full time, it’s all on top of everything else. This year, I’ve worked at full time jobs, written a book, spent a month driving through California (which was awesome) and bought a house. That’s all before I even start thinking about writing and presenting talks.

I’m phenomenally grateful to everyone that’s taken a chance and given me a speaking opportunity this year, and I hope that we’ll see each other again in 2018. For 2017 though, I’ll be submitting to less conferences and spending more time at home.

Michael is a polyglot software engineer, committed to reducing complexity in systems and making them more predictable. Working with a variety of languages and tools, he shares his technical expertise to audiences all around the world at user groups and conferences. You can follow @mheap on Twitter

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