First Time Speaking

Yesterday I gave my first talk at a national technology conference, DjangoCon US 2017. It was titled 'Accessibility Matters: Building a Better Web' and gave examples of good and bad accessibility that people could follow. The actual memories of it are fuzzy--I was so nervous leading up to it, and so relieved to finally be able to get it done.

I’d applied almost on a whim, not thinking I would be accepted. I was ecstatic when I found out I was. The topic, web accessibility, is a passion of mine for personal and professional reasons and something that I think everyone needs. And that not enough people pay attention to.

As nerve-wracking and stressful as it was, though…I definitely know I want to do more of it. I want to refine my talk, give it to so many people who need to think more about accessibility, and help people through it.

Already I’m working on some other proposals and trying to find conferences I hadn’t thought of before as I search for open CFPs.

The following are things I think went well and things I would have done differently, from the point of view of a “first time speaker”.

What Worked

The speaker information I received gave us a list of "approved" slide apps, so I ended up using Google Slides. It was fairly simple and thankfully the information on how to do certain things that Google didn't choose to make easy to find was just a quick Google search away. The speaker notes (and especially the timer on them) was a nice touch compared to how I normally handle such things.

I put reminders to slow down to myself, which thankfully helped me without being too much of a distraction. In the future, I might leave a message to take a drink, too, because I spent the last half of the talk glancing at my water and only realizing there was a good break to take a drink after it had happened.

Avoiding watching other talks before mine was probably a good idea. Some of the ones I watched after were worse, but actually reminded me of things that I had avoided doing, but would have probably been obsessing over the entire time. And, of course, some of the talks were very well-done, which might have made me more anxious while I was speaking.

What Else I'd Do

Okay. Really. Freeze on changes two days out. Really. I mean it...and I'll probably still not do it, let's be honest.

I definitely want to do more practice being unable to see the actual slides while still using the speaker notes and moving through the presentation at the same speed I would normally.

I'd love to get more stats in my talks, they're hard because I don't want to rely on anyone being able to see my slides, but I'm sure I could find ways to describe graphs and whatnot.

More dog pictures. For reasons.

What Next?

Once the talk was done, I was exhausted...but also, excited? As I said above, I really want to do more talks.

I've been searching for Developer Relations positions and am really hoping to get one sooner than later, which would give me support from my employer for the conferences. I'm going to leverage this talk towards making my applications more legitimate.