Jikes - This June, we held our annual developer conference called Codegarden. For the first time, i was to go on the stage and do a talk. This is me and Martin - looks like we are having fun 😅
You might think that doing a talk at Codegarden is an easy thing - "Hey Mikkel you have been in this game for so many years(17 and counting), it must be easy-peasy to get on stage and talk about what your are doing" - I can honestly say, it was not; for me personally this was a big challenge due to a few things.
Fear of public speaking
I read somewhere(googled it) that 75% of the population if affected by this, its official name is glossophobia! I am definitely one of those! I don't suffer greatly with big panic attacks, but just thinking of standing in front of a big audience, scares me. I have never been on a stage in front of such an audience. This was the biggest challenge going into this talk.
I said "yes" to do a talk together with my friend and team lead Martin Clausen, we have done some internal presentations before, and it went well. We wanted to take it to the next level, and try public speaking, to share the word of the work we do, so when we saw the opportunity to try to get to talk at Codegarden, we applied.
Once our talk was approved, my glossophobia started sneaking in, not only were we going to talk in front of an audience, but we were also put on the Main stage at Codegarden.
One of the things that I feel always help when you have a fear of something is to talk about it (psychiatry 1:1). We had some discussions and we set up a strategy for doing the talk. It was actually pretty simple. Practice, practice, practice, and then practice some more. The idea was that by at least knowing the talk by heart, we could remove one of the things that made me nervous, that being forgetting what to say.
Also practice the first 5-10 a lot more than the rest - the strategy here being that if we have started the talk, and the first few minutes are rolling along fine, then the initial nerves would be gone, and we would be more comfortable on stage. And then we did start to practice.
So just now much practicing?
The talk was supposed to be 25 minutes long, we started to put together the talk about a month before, and once the initial transcript was done for the talk, we held two meetings every week, for 1-hour to practice. In the last week we held meetings almost every day, to run through the talk.
We did it by booking a meeting room at Umbraco HQ, and then shut the doors, and put on the presentation, and then we would "just" run the talk and talk to the empty room. We also did record it a few times to make it feel like there was an audience listening.
All in all, I think we had run the 25 minutes presentation through 7-10 times before the final show. At that point it almost became trivial to run through what needed to be said, and it definitely helped me a whole lot for the final talk.
Imposter syndrome is the thought, where you don't think you are good enough to be doing what you are doing. This also came to me, and revealed itself when we tried to put together a talk. questions kept popping up like
- Do we even have anything interesting to share and talk about?
- People are paying to see us talk, would I ever pay to hear this?
- Was our talk only accepted due to us working at Umbraco HQ?
- Do I know why we have been working on these things for so long?
I've heard many people going through these phases when in the same situation as me. In most situations is self applied, and I think the most important thing to overcome it is to tell youself two things:
- I know what I'm doing; if I find it interesting, someone else will as well.
- It does not have to be perfect to be good.
Especially that last one is important. we were going to talk about some things that we know and use but are not experts in, therefore we were unable to do a perfect and flawless presentation on those subjects. But that is ok, we can spread the word, and maybe those words could start a conversation or two where we or someone else could learn new things.
Speaking... public... at Codegarden
The numberof nerves I had before going on stage! I had to take 20-30 minutes for myself, just to overcome it, but at some point, we had to go get a microphone attached and be ready, the nerves slowly disappeared. Everyone was nice and friendly - even the audience 🤗.
We did as planned, and started out very well, and before we knew of it, those 25 minutes had passed. It was a great success, and super experience.
I did enjoy being on stage and presenting. I love to share the work we are doing (which is also why this blog exists).
So would I do it again - the answer is a "yes". I'm sure I'll be super nervous the next time as well, but having had the first success, might help me loose a bit of those nerves.
We must have done an ok job, because we were invited to do the same talk at a local meetup group two weeks after Codegarden. At this point presenting it was much easier, the nerves was gone, and we were even able to improvise a little :-)
Reflecting on the process, I think it's all the thoughts coming in before the actual talk that was the worst part. It's not knowing what is going to happen, and weather you are good enough to be presenting on that stage. Once the talk started it was "just" a matter of being present and in the moment, presenting what we had practiced so many times before.
A few quotes
I have been open to anyone I've talked to about my talk that I was super nervous for doing it. It helped me to do so, and I also got a few good quotes and tips to help me along the way. I thought I'd share two of them.
I got this from Jim at Umbraco HQ (who might have gotten it somewhere else) - "Don't be affraid of forgetting to tell things you had in your transcript, the audience don't know what was in there". the quote says it all, if you miss a sentence or two that you thought you were going to say while on stage, its ok - the only one who knew about that sentence is you.
I was lucky to bump into Mads Torgersen (c# language designer from Microsoft), and we talked about nerves and presenting. He told me that he still has nerves before presenting - they don't last for that long, but there are still nerves. This is man who sometimes does big presentations almost weekly and has been doing so for a long time. If the pros (like Mads) also get nerves, its ok that a rookie like myself get a few as well :)
It was scary; it was a great experience; I'd do it again :-)
The talk itself is not public available yet - but if you held a ticket to Codegarden, and didn't catch it at the conference, it can be replayed in the Codegarden app. It will be made available on YouTube within a few months.
The presentation itself can be found in the references to this post as .pdf.