Facing the fear

by Dom Davis, on 14 June 2022

All conference speakers, regardless of, well anything really, share one thing in common. They all had to deliver their first talk. The first time they stood up in front of a group of people and imparted something. I cannot be more specific, because each and every one of those experiences would have been unique, but I can be reasonably sure about one thing: those speakers would have been scared. Probably terrified.

Stage nerves

Talking to a large group of people is scary. That fear lessens the more you do it, but it never quite goes away. Recently, a well respected keynote speaker at a large conference told us their heart rate was over 140bpm before starting. The talk was excellent, so arguably they had nothing to worry about. And yet, there was The Fear. Fear, the talk won’t go well. Fear people won’t find it interesting, or useful. Fear that you will somehow fail.

I mention this because, great as it is to see the same old faces [quite literally in some cases,] I also love hearing from new people. What may seem blindingly obvious to you, like doing something in Blender or coding a little electronics project on an Arduino, are actually fascinating to people like me whose experience doesn’t encompass these fields.

“But,” I hear you say, “The Fear!”

To which I say Tish and Pish. Provided you can tell a story, you can give a talk. Granted, not everyone can tell a good story, but you may surprise yourself if you tried.

Adrenaline rush

The Fear is very real. As is the stress. But then so is the rush when you’re done. And the discourse after the event. Which is why, time after time, I willingly put myself in the situation of standing up in front of a whole bunch of people who know a lot more about a whole bunch of stuff than I do, and open my gob. And then I tell a story. Usually about tech.

Despite coming across as a colossal extrovert, I am actually very introverted. Going up to strangers and talking to them is incredibly difficult for me. Standing in front of them and talking at them is somehow easier. And, once it’s all over, they come and speak to me. A ready made gaggle of people to talk to and interact with while at a conference.

Conference gains

Ultimately, for me, that’s what conferences are about. Yes, the learning to be gained from the talks is interesting, but you can watch most of those on the internet. It’s the corridor conference which is the best part. So despite everything, I will submit talks to conferences I want to go to, because if I don’t I will just passively attend the conference, rather than taking part in it. So this year, listen to the stories being told at NorDevCon, and have a think about what story you might tell next year. You never know, you might even enjoy telling it.