11 May 2019

First Time Speaker (FTS) with few tips

FTS: First Time Speaker. Fake abbreviation made by me 😉

How it started

I can definitely describe myself as an Introvert 😑 It’s really hard (or I can say, impossible) for me to initiate a conversation in a group of new people, even today. I wanted to do something about this, pushing myself out of my comfort zone.

So, I decided to apply for the local tech meetups. While on the search, I found AwesomeConf which focuses on the Vue framework. The theme was, “No one shall be a passive attendee”, means everyone has to speak at least for 5 or so minutes. I really like that as the theme seems to force me to speak 😜. So, I applied for this conference. A few days later, I got a DM from the organizer that my topic was selected to present.

Yay! Selected 🕺 Ouch! Selected 🥴

That was a mixed feeling. I was really happy that my proposal was selected 🤩 as well as I started to feel anxious about the stage, audience and literally everything 🤯. I really gave a lot of thought before committing to this. Finally, I replied that I’m glad to speak at the conference.

The Preparation Era

From that moment, I pour a lot (like a loooottt…) of time in preparing the content and slides. Initially, the content was okayish and I moved on to the preparation part. I’m not a native English speaker and my language fluency is not that much strong especially when it comes to public speaking. So, I started to prepare slide notes. I literally wrote every single line that I planned to talk (Beleive me, I even wrote down the greetings and Thank you note).

Snap from my original slide deck

It was about 20 slides and I finish writing extensive notes for all, fairly a week before the conference. Next comes the actual speaking practice. This was the toughest part 😬. First I started to read out the notes loud (locking myself inside my room) to practice the flow. One of my friends, Sivakumar advised me to record the practice talk using QuickTime player or any such tool and re-watch it for improvements. It actually helped me a lot. I recorded about 4 trails and each one helps me to tune my presenting flow. TBH, when looked into the recording, I was terrified the way I read out the points. It was like reciting a poem to my teacher repeating a lot of words again and again and used a lot of “Ahhmm” word between phrases. If I did not do this practice, I can’t imagine how my actual talk would be 😆

I have done a mock presentation with my friend, Sivakumar, a couple of days before the actual talk. He pointed out some really helpful changes wrt the setup and to the actual flow. I incorporated the most. At that point, my slides were in good shape.

A Travel story

Before the conference day, I have to travel from Chennai to Bangalore, the venue of the conference. This was another challenge of its own. I don’t travel much. Traveling to another city (State, to be precise) for this conference was really like out of my comfort zone and despite that, honestly, I enjoyed the journey. I stayed in a hotel, which I pre-booked earlier, for the night before the conf day. As this was the first try to speak in a meetup/conf in my whole life, I could not sleep that night. Rehearsed 2 times, organized my editor. (Yes, I was decided to do a live coding 😜), prepared my tees and jeans, repeatedly visiting the conference website (only to see my name in the speaker list 😃). It was a great feeling to see my name 😇

Finally gone bed at almost 3:00 AM with an alarm set at 6.30 AM. Managed to wake up at 7:00 AM. Did another rehearse, freshened up, had breakfast and ready to check out at 8:30 AM. Reached the venue at 9:00 AM.

Finally at the hall

As soon as I entered the conf hall, I was able to realize that my heartbeat rate was elevated. Managed to chose a seat at the center of the hall. As per the schedule, I was the second speaker. So, I decided to give another skim of my slides.

But, unfortunately (or maybe, fortunately) the first speaker was running late that morning and one of the organizers asked me if I’m okay to start first. I accepted without a second thought and I don’t know how I did that till date 🙃

So, the first speaker of the conference! Went up to the stage and the rest was like magic. Even though I cannot claim the talk to be perfect, I managed to finish all the slides as well as the coding session right on time (20 minutes) with a decent flow.

The entire 20 minutes was a great experience. That gives me confidence in applying for future meetups and conferences. It proved to me that I can face a group of people and project an idea that I know. This was the much-needed tool in my toolkit.

I got the perk of being the first speaker of the day. I watched all the 15 talks (yes, 15 talks in a day) without any elevated heart rates 😛. As I mentioned, talking to new people was really tough for me. But, the co-speakers were really welcoming and they themselves initiated the conversation and I really like this about meetups and conferences. Got some really good friends at the end of the day.

So, How was the conference? Well…

Overall, the entire experience was great and that was really an “AwesomeConf” of 2019 for me. I have to thank the organizers, Rahul and Swapnil as well as the awesome sponsor, Meesho, for the wonderful venue and again awesome lunch 😋

NOTE: If anyone wants to speak and you are not doing that because you think you are an introvert and not comfortable with a new group of people, I urge every one of you to attend/speak at the local meetup and conferences. You will never regret your choice and you’ll definitely thank me.

Tips from an FTS:

As I mentioned, these are some tips I can give from my experience being a Frist time speaker as well as from my friends who helped me preparing the talk:

  • Prepare the slides as soon as possible.
  • Practise your talk enough. If possible, record them and re-watch. That will definitely help you in a lot of ways.
  • Try to do mock presentations with your friends and collect feedback (again, Record)
  • If you are planning to do live coding session, set up the IDEs and servers (if any) beforehand. You cannot make your attendees wait till the server is up or your IDE indexes all your files.
  • If you are using a web browser, which you will most likely be, try to keep your browser clean without a lot of extensions or fancy themes, new tab settings. Those things might distract attendees.
  • Prepare and use snippets to do coding faster. You need not write every single statement in front of the attendees.
  • If possible, prepare GIFs or video of your coding session. If anything goes wrong on live coding, we have a Plan B.
  • Have the presenter note in few mediums: Mobile, hard copy, desktop, etc.
  • Have breakfast on the conference day.
  • Prepare your stay and travel (if any) before the conference date. This will keep your focus on the presentation and avoid unnecessary last-minute surprises. Services like Uber, OYO are really helpful.
  • Take a lot of pics on the conferences 😉
  • Above all, try to interact with the attendees and speakers. At my view, it’s one of the core parts of meetups and conferences.

Thanks for reading through my experience. I hope the tips will be helpful. I’m so grateful that a few of my friends are more excited about this than me. Once again, thanks to everyone who helped me in this little but effective journey.

The actual title of my talk was “Ember and Vue: How they share values?” and planning for another blog with the actual talk content. So, stay tuned.