A few months ago, I was delighted to be part of the amazing DDDnorth conference that took place in Bradford. This time, I was actually facing the attendees as I was taking the role of speaker for the first time.
It was a truly amazing experience, and I want to share my afterthought with you all, in the hope that I will be able to convince some of you to take this extra step in your career.
The hidden Iceberg – The preparation
Many website accept your talk from the abstract ( a few hundred words to explain the content of your talk), and many speaker actually do not prepare the actual talk until their talk has been submitted. I thought that was just my mistake, but it seem to be a big mistake from newbie that I am not going to repeat again.
The actual preparation that goes behind a conference session is immense. I have spent almost 25 hours changing and adapting the Powerpoint and another 20+ repeating it over and over until I got it just right. It would have been fine if you share this over an extensive period of time, but do it between being approved and the actual talk ( less than a month) was not a great idea, and I really suggest you all to learn from my mistake!
I have been lucky to keep an initial copy of my presentation, and I have been able to compare it with the final one. It is admirable how much it changed. I am not just talking at the actual design of the slide or the odd pictures, but the overall content and message that the presentation broadcast to the audience.
This is probably one of the main reason why sometimes the abstract can be quite different from the actual presentation.
A journey to self discovery
Writing an abstract to submit a Call for paper (CFP), is quite easy. We all have our “special” topic that we like to discuss, or a personal experience that we want to share, and this is usually good enough to draft down the bare bones of a presentation. But the real work needed to actually create enough content to present a whole session is a different story.
Spending time, trying to put your thought on paper is not easy, I actually felt the pain of all writers, that have something beautiful stuck in their head, and do no know the best way to share it with others. Luckily I was surrounded by great people, I would ask you all to ask and get people involved, because there is nothing better to actually share your thoughts to give you the energy and the power to continue and make a great presentation.
When I applied to be a speaker, I actually thought to know enough on the topic, and did not think that I needed to do any research, but I was completely wrong. You can never know too much! I have learned so much on my specific topic, and the feedback from other speaker was completely the same! Some people have even confessed, that the main reason why they speak at conference or write blog post is to “force” themselves to actually research and study specific topics in details.
The main event
There are no nice words that I can share, or special powder that will save you from the “Speaking anxiety”. Some people are affected more than others, and luckily I coped very well with it.
If Anxiety does hit, I can only suggest to remember that it is too late to back now, so do you best, if thing goes wrong, just work hard and try again! We are all humans after all!!
In my case, I felt amazingly energetic after I started my session. For the first time I really felt like all the preparation, all the hard work and all the hours talking by myself were finally worth it! Having lots of people staring at you can be scary, but remember that people are not there to judge you, but they have joined your session because they think you and your topic are worth the time!
The actual talk and questions time will fly! You will not believe how quick it will be before someone will warn you of the time!
The after event will be the best part of the conference for you, it is the time to try and get as many feedback as possible, because do not forget that the aim is always getting better and improve, so even if you did something wrong, you just need to focus and see what you can do to improve and not focus too much on the actual mistake!
I have personally loved it, and I cannot wait to do it again. The amount of work that goes behind it is incredible, so make sure you are really ready for it, and give 150% of yourself, but do not let this get you down because the personal satisfaction is the feeling of accomplishment that you receive at the end cannot be explained!