Coming to Love Speaking

Tonight I gave my first community talk ever at the Symfony User Group Rhein/Main. Now, how did that happen ?

The first real coding conference I attended was the Macoun (a Mac/iOS conference in Frankfurt). At the time I did not know any Objective-C (it was 2011 and Swift was still years away), but I had won the pricey ticket and decided to go anyway - after all you never know what can come in handy later down the road.

I was not disappointed. Although I did not completely understand all the talks, I had found some way more precious: A job perspective. Until that day I had always known that I would like to work in tech someday. But on that day I decided that my job in tech somehow had to include attending and speaking at conferences.

Since everybody has to start out small, I had to find a starting point that maybe was not a conference room packed with hundreds of listeners. Luckily my chance came up when I visited the last meeting of the Symfony User Group. There was still a time slot open for the next meeting and the organizers where looking for someone to fill that gap.

I suggested a talk about asynchronous event processing in Symfony/PHP and was accepted. So there I was.

Given the fact that as a member of my local city council I get to talk in front of people regularly, I have no problem doing so. I got a lot a practice during that time. Having to speak before political opponents takes away most of the stage fright and intimidation, as a certain amount of determination is necessary.

Still I figured , speaking in front of a technically skilled audience would be a whole different story. These people would not judge me based not my rhetorical skill set or charming appearance, but rather based on technical skills. As someone with no educational background in computer science and only a few years of experience on the job, chances are most of the people in the room would be way smarter on the subject then I was.

Granted, that might not be the case - yet, it is the best attitude to have when preparing a talk. Never assume your the smartest person in the room, no matter the subject. There will always be people you can learn from. It forces you to prepare extraordinary well, so that you are prepared for any question you can think of. It makes you double check your every slide. If you start to prepare your talk like this, you will most certainly learn more about the topic in the process than you would have otherwise. Your actual talk can still turn out good or bad, but you have already learned and profited by it.

Now, I was lucky and/or well prepared. The talk was received rather good and the people in the room where all very welcoming. As an experience in public speaking it was a good as can be for a first time. I had a blast. Mz special thanks of course go the all the attendees and organizers of the user group meetup ! It made me look forward to the next time I am given the opportunity to deliver a talk.

PS: As the talk was in German, I cannot publish it here yet. I will rewrite the slides in English when I have the time to and put them up here somewhere. Stay tuned to find out when that happens.