My first talk at a conference.

Back in June DDD East Anglia put out a call for speakers, and so I decided to submit. It was late and I’d had a few drinks and so after submitting I kind of forgot about it for a while until July when I noticed the call for speakers had opened via Twitter @DDDEastAnglia. The really great thing about DDD is that they let potential attendees vote on what should make the agenda. I think as a speaker it helps settle some nerves as you know that before you even turn up to present people have voted for your sessions and want to know more about what you have to share.

Early August I got the fantastic news that I had some how managed to get on the the agenda, I would be giving a my first conference talk, a testing talk at a developer conference… yikes!

At this point I had never given a talk at a meet-up or conference - not even the meet-up I run Swansea Software Development Community or at a developer conference (SwanseaCon) which I’ve organised for 3 years - I’d usually do some introductions but never speak for more than 10 minutes. I then discovered I’d overlooked one important piece of information… the talk length was one hour!

In the run up to the event the meet-up I organise had not only one speaker drop out, but the speaker who then replaced the speaker who dropped out, also dropped out. I didn’t really have much time to try and get some practise at speaking infront of people so this was my chance. I gave the talk at the meetup to around 14 people and it went down really well with the talk lasting 45 minutes. There were lots of questions and it helped me look at areas of my talk where I was lacking a little ‘meat’ to try and bulk the talk up a little. At work I was also asked by Amy to run the session in the front-end lunch & learn as well as then being asked by the back-end developers to speak at their chapter meeting, again the talk seemed to go down well - there were a few nodding heads which really helped with my confidence having never really done much public speaking. In the space of two weeks I’d had some great trial runs of the talk.

A week away until DDD East Anglia I started to worry….what if people ask x or y, did I know enough about the subject?! I started to change things in the slide deck, expand on ‘stuff’…. I started to feel a little like the flow and what I had rehearsed all of a sudden became something I didn’t quite fully know how to deliver. This continued pretty much up until the day. I should have just left things as it just added to the panic, though the additional slides talking about frAgile testing and some test anti-patterns really did help to put my point across and these provoked a little discussion which was great.

On the day of the talk I was fortunate there was lunch and some grok talks before my talk, this gave me lots of time to plug my laptop in, run through my slides to ensure they displayed as expected and just run through a few things. Initially the thought of speaking after lunch did make me nervous, would people interact and stay awake?!

The attendees were excellent, they asked questions and were interested in the topics - after all at DDD events the attendees vote for the sessions to make the agenda and so of course they were interested to hear about what I had to say. The first 10 minutes I was a little nervous and rushed through slides. I’m so pleased I set the timer on my watch as this enabled me to quickly check how I was doing on time and helped me to adjust to slow down which really helped. I think having parts of the talk where attendees could interact worked well (spot the difference / where’s wally), as well as ensuring attendees knew they could just comment or ask questions as we went along.

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The whole experience was fantastic and I really enjoyed giving my first conference talk (unsure why I look so grumpy in the photo) but I plan to work on taking my time and slowing things down. I managed to speak for 47 minutes despite the initial rush and nervous panic. I plan to work on slowing things down and not to be so nervous I will be able to make the 60 minutes when I give this talk again at DDD North in Bradford next month. If you do not have a ticket yet they are free and they still have some left!

If you attended this session, thank you for being a part of it - I really hope you got something out of the talk and also had some fun.

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