I enter the room. I’m about to give a talk at a conference.
They gave me the biggest room of the venue.
Oh my god, I did not realize how big it is.
I hope it won’t be full.
Oh my god, I hope it won’t look empty!
I go to the audio engineer. Getting my microphone, testing my laptop.
I wait somewhere near the back. My heart starts racing.
Slowly, the room is filling. So many people.
Why did I submit my talk to this conference again?
5 minutes to go. I know that, because I am checking my watch every 20 seconds.
I ask the audio engineer the time. 4:40, then it starts.
I check if my hands are sweating. They are dry. Why are they dry?
I really don’t like to be in the same room with so many people.
40 seconds to go. I can’t remember what I wanted to talk about.
20 seconds. Do my slides even make sense? I should have re-arranged them.
0 seconds. OH MY GOD, I have to give my talk NOW.
I put on a smile. I walk up the stage.
“Good afternoon, everyone! So many came here - awesome! I hope your lunch was good. Today I will talk about…”
Two weeks ago, I gave a talk at a conference. This is roughly how I felt.
Had you asked me ~20 years ago, when I started university, if I could give a talk in front of 300 or more people, I would have said: “No. Never. Ever. I just cannot do that. I am too shy, I would die on the stage.”
Some of the things I am doing, like talking and networking at conferences, are still not easy to me. Even though I do them all the time. Even after many, many years. So, what has changed? Why am I doing them?
When WeAreDevelopers interviewed me, one of their questions (and my answer) was:
WeAreDevs: What is one of those things you wish you knew when you started out developing?
David: That becoming a good software developer is all about being good at communicating with other developers – and especially with “non-technical” people.
I think that communicating and networking are key to having a great career in software development. We must learn to talk to strangers. Talk to people from completely different backgrounds - Understand their background, adjust the communication. Be able to present ideas in front of groups. Quickly teach people a single thing about a topic.
Those are important, even if you never go to a conference. You also need those skills when joining a new team or when you want to become a technical lead, software architect or some other role that involves a lot of communication.
And so I am trying to get better at them. I am now at a point where, most of the time, many of those things are not scary anymore. But they are still exhausting. And I am not there yet - There is still much more to learn.
I am writing this down to clear my thoughts about it. And to get your feedback. And maybe what I wrote can help some others by showing them that this stuff is not easy for me, and that I (and others), too, are constantly working on that.
I want to write more about that, later. So, here are all the blog posts from this series:
If you have any questions, if you need help or advice or just somebody to talk to, feel free to ping me. I am sometimes quite busy, but I will help you if I can. DM me on Twitter or send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also, I want to teach a short (2-hour) workshop about “speaking at conferences” at SoCraTes Austria. Participants will practice
- Finding conferences to speak at
- Finding and refining a topic
- Writing and refining abstracts
- Preparing to create slides
- Communicating with the conference
- Courage and Self-Confidence
If this sounds interesting to you, come to SoCraTes Austria. And if you cannot make it, maybe I could teach it at a meetup or user group near you? Email me - email@example.com - so we can talk about the details.