Recently, I tried to gather all of the presentations that I have participated in during my career up to this point (~10 years). I was able to find materials for almost 20 different presentations or workshops that I have been a part of. This caused a question to come to mind: "why did I put myself through all of this pain"? Speaking in public is not easy for me. Especially when it comes to technical topics in front of a group of people the majority of which, I believe, are smarter than I am.
After pondering on this question for a few weeks I've come up with a few reasons.
Teaching Something is the Best Way to Learn It
It's not a big secret that the best way to learn something is to teach it to someone else. However, I think that sometimes we forget this. The knowledge that I've gained from teaching workshops has been invaluable and I don't believe that I would have been as successful with out it.
I defy you to give me an example of another industry that shares it's knowledge as freely and openly as web development. I'm continually impressed by the general attitude of most developers of willingness to share technical knowledge with anyone. As a self-taught developer, I have been especially dependent on this principle and consequently have felt motivated to contribute to it. One of the ways that I have done this is by speaking at conferences.
More than a Spectator
Attending a conference is about connecting with others and the technology that you are learning about. If you just sit and listen the whole time then you are missing out. Feeling like you are a part of the conference changes the entire experience.
I know that it sounds corny and cliche, but your story may be just the inspiration that someone in your audience needs to hear. Too often we assume that what we are working on isn't interesting to anyone else. Yet I believe that most people are wondering if what they are doing is correct and seeing someone else's work helps with that.
So I hope that when you register for your next conference you decide to submit a paper also. You will regret it!