Building a community of speakers

Colin Oakley
3 min readOct 16, 2018

One of the things I love most about Newcastle is the great community of meet-ups.

As well as frontend NE there is Sunderland Digital, NUX Newcastle, JavaScript NE, Ladies of Code and PHP NE to name but a few. (You can find more at

We’ve started talking about recently is how to encourage more local speakers to talk at events.

In the last 8 months, we’ve only had few submissions from local speakers, that isn’t to say we haven’t had events with local speakers. This year we’ve had a great range of local speakers like Craig Abbott talking about ‘Empathy in Accessibility’ or Jamie Barton talking about ‘The State of GraphQL’.

Jamie Barton, Speaking at Sunderland Digital


I know from speaking to people at events that people are often hesitant of submitting talks — the two most common reasons I hear are - that people are not confident in public speaking and that they have nothing to talk about.

I’ve not met many speakers who are not nervous before a talk but I often feel the two are linked, when people are talking about topics they know, then they are naturally more confident in it.

Most people I speak to can talk for 5–10 minutes without any preparation, we often think that what we do as a job is normal, but for people outside of your team, or company everything that you value as normal probably isn’t.

Even my own role, as a front-end developer at DWP Digital I’ve found so much I take for granted that isn’t everyone’s experience, examples of talks of the top of my head:

  • Working with designers in an agile environment
  • Front-end testing — what good looks like
  • Deciding what we test
  • goodbye jQuery
  • Scaling front-end across teams
  • Defending better APIs contracts
  • Accessibility testing
  • Building resilience into services
  • Prototyping in code
  • Closing the feedback loop on teams
  • How much I hate sizing stories

The above titles are based on conversations I’ve had with people over the last 12 months, and all of them are related to work. A couple of these are more a blog post then a talk, but you never know.

I’m 100% confident that if you think back over what you’ve done in the last 12 months they’ll be some amazing candidates for talk topics!

What can we do about it?

For November at frontend meet-up, we have Sophie Koonin talking about ‘Talking the Talk’ — if you can’t make the talk you can check it out on youTube.

Aside from Sophie’s talk here are some other good links;

Next year we will be running a shorter talks event at frontend NE next year (as long as we get submissions!).

If your thinking you want to talk but have no idea what to talk about then reach out, to either me or generally to frontendNE, or email.

You can make a submission here.



Colin Oakley

front-end developer in Government into html, css, node.js and a11y. Co-orginizer of Frontend North East.