Speaking at Drupal Events: A Non‑Code Way to Contribute to Drupal


June 8, 2021 | Irene Dobbs
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Contributing to Drupal is one of the most important things we can do as a part of the Drupal community. Considering that the platform is open source, contributions are essential to keep Drupal advancing. When it comes to contributions, there are a number of ways to get involved—and they don't all involve coding. I recently had the opportunity to contribute in the form of speaking at DrupalCon about a module our team rescued.

The Origins of Our DrupalCon Session

Our Drupal team has been working with the TB Mega Menu module since 2017. As we worked on various projects and tried to meet each client's different needs, we ended up making many updates and changes to the module. We eventually realized this module was no longer being maintained, so we applied for ownership and, ultimately, ended up rescuing the abandoned project.

We saw first-hand the community benefit that came from this project going from abandoned to rescued. Once we added our fixes and started updating the module, the community began using it again. Seeing the community jump right back in helped us to understand the value of contributing back to Drupal.

Encouraged by this new understanding of the importance of this contribution, we looked for a way to share that with the greater community. In a way, us sharing our story about contributing back to Drupal is another way to contribute to the Drupal community.

The Speaker Application Process

Since we wanted to share our experience of community contribution and demonstrate there are many different ways one can contribute, we decided to share our story at Drupal camps and DrupalCon. We first applied to Florida DrupalCamp and we did not get in. If something similar happens to you, it's important to not get discouraged. We took that "no" and let it drive us—we only worked harder when we applied to DrupalCon.

We spent a lot of time updating our proposal to DrupalCon. Our hard work and proposal revisions paid off, and we were rewarded with a "yes!" Some tips to keep in mind when working on your proposal.

Pick a Topic that Excites You

Pick a topic that you're excited about. If you're passionate about your topic, that will shine through in your proposal (and later on in your presentation). We were very excited about our topic and held it close to our hearts, which fueled our proposal development.

For our DrupalCon proposal, we took a step back and thought about how we could share this experience we were so passionate about, and how we could have our audience understand the importance of this contribution and get excited themselves.

Keep Your Proposal Direct and Concise

Make sure your proposal is direct and concise. It's always helpful to have other people take a look at your proposal and provide a fresh perspective. If you're able to, it's also beneficial to have someone with speaker proposal experience review.

Select a Catchy Title

Choose a title that's eye-catching and true to the content of your session. Of course, you want your title to create interest, but it's also important to make sure that your session's attendees are getting the content they expected when they chose to attend.

My Experience as a First-Time Speaker

Contributing to TB Mega Menu and presenting at DrupalCon were my first major experiences within the Drupal community. This year, DrupalCon was virtual, and it was a cool experience presenting online. As a first-time presenter, there were a few things I found comforting about presenting virtually. Personally, I felt less nervous because I didn't have to stand on stage and present to a crowd. I felt a bit more casual and comfortable in my own home. There was a chat and Q&A feature so I could see if the audience was engaged in my presentation. Overall, I enjoyed presenting virtually for my first speaker experience.

Co-presenting with my colleague Wade Stewart was another important element of this experience. I had never presented before at any conference, so having a co-presenter for my session helped to alleviate some of the nerves I experienced.

We did a lot of individual practice to get familiar with our own pieces of the story, and we also practiced frequently together to ensure we both felt comfortable and that we had a good flow. For anyone who is interested in speaking at a conference like DrupalCon but who might be hesitant or nervous to do it alone, I definitely recommend finding someone to co-present with. In my experience, it removed a lot of pressure and made the experience more fun.

Giving Back to the Drupal Community

It has been great as a relatively new member of both the Drupal community and Bounteous to be able to speak at DrupalCon and participate in TB Mega Menu. Both of these experiences have really helped me to appreciate and understand how important the community is around Drupal.

I am thankful that I was able to contribute via our module rescue and then contribute again in a non-code way by sharing the experience and speaking at DrupalCon. I encourage everyone to explore the ways that you can give back to the Drupal community! Contributors can earn credits for identifying or fixing problems, contributing code, or a host of other non-technical options like speaking at conferences.