Speaking at Frontend United 2017

Speaking at people in public

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I got back last week from Athens, where I was privileged enough to be able to give a talk at Frontend United 2017.

Despite attending many conferences over the years, this was, in truth, my first time speaking in front of a conference audience. Oh, I’d spoken at meet-ups before, and even compered at large events, but speaking at a conference that people had paid actual money to attend and hear me say things… fuck, I’d never done that. I’m used to hanging around in the crowd, and watching others do their thing on stage, rather than standing in front of everyone and talking.

It’s good news however, as the talk went extremely well. None of my anxiety dreams were realised. I didn’t fling the microphone across the room while speaking (as was one fear), nor did I stumble to a halt and forget what I had to say (as was another). I definitely didn’t pass out and wake to find myself naked on stage (a third, if perhaps unlikely, anxiety).

The talk itself

After receiving the acceptance email from FEU, I was in a panic, as I hadn’t actually written the talk that I was proposing. But luckily the wonderful Up.Front Berlin meetup was still looking for speakers for their next event, in just a few days. I spent 48 hours hastily banging out a sketchy talk.

I chose a previous popular blog post, Yes, Progressive enhancement is a Fucking Moral Argument, as the basic for the talk. And by popular, it got the most number of men telling me I was wrong.

TBH, the talk at Up.Front was a bit pants, being a mish mash of various SJW concepts. But the talk let me see what worked and what didn’t (for example, the entire audience kept avoiding my gaze as I harangued them and didn’t give them even sliver of humour).

I spent the next month refining it into something that worked. All my love to my patient partner who had to put up with me hiding in cafes and working on it at silly hours. I really need to get better at time boxing this kind of stuff.

Frontend United

FEU itself was an incredibly lovely event, put on by volunteers who obviously had a lot of love for their trade and their community. My wholehearted thanks to the extremely hardworking organisers of the event for giving me this opportunity, and for being such wonderfully lovely hosts.

I got to meet a lot of people there who I’ve only ever seen online before, and it was an absolute pleasure to meet them all in the flesh. It was also good to hear a lot of seasoned conference talkers tell of how difficult it was their first few times speaking, and about how much easier it gets.

The future

Fuck it, given the feedback I think I did great, so I’m going to carry on speaking. So if you want someone who can come swear at your audience and talk vaguely about tech, I’m your gal.

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