Rocky Mountain Ruby 2014: my very first conference talk! Wow! It was nerve-wracking, invigorating, encouraging, and surprising. The organizers, attendees, and speakers at Rocky Mountain Ruby were simply the best for a first time speaker. Everyone was kind, supportive, and attentive.
My conference experience began with the speakers’ dinner. As a not-super-outgoing (albeit friendly) person, I was definitely outside my comfort zone, but I soon shook my jitters and started conversations with both speakers and sponsored attendees. Several people expressed mild concern over the title of my talk - I’ll admit, it’s a little “punchy” - but most had at least noticed it in the schedule and were curious to hear what the content would be. This might have caused a few more butterflies to hatch in my stomach, but I tried to harness those nerves into confidence that my topic was important.
Fortunately for me and the butterflies living in my stomach, my talk was scheduled for the first day of the conference. After a few great talks, I was fitted with a mic, given directions with how to turn it on, and pointed up the stairs onto the stage. It was go time.
The Boulder Theater was an imposing first time venue. The lights were bright. So bright that I could hardly see anyone in the audience, let alone the handful of acquaintances towards the front that I had earmarked to be my go-tos when I needed a familiar face. Speaking to a bright wall of light, but knowing there was a theater full of listeners, was the most nerve-wracking thing I’ve done in a long while. But once I got to my first funny gif and I heard a room full of chuckles, I started to relax. At least a little. If you watch the video above, you can definitely hear the nerves in my voice. But somehow I got through to the end, answered a few questions, and made it back down to a chair without completely blanking.
I learned that even with my steely reserve, conference speaking is hard. But the conversations I had afterwards were so encouraging and exciting. To hear, more than once, “I can’t wait to send the video to my boss” was equal parts “Yikes!” and “Yay!” And to hear from a of couple teams that were there together “We had a 20 minute pow-wow after your talk to discuss what our culture actually is” let me know that people truly heard what I had to say. I’m not sure I’ve ever had a feeling like it before… and I look forward to having the feeling again.
@pwnela's talk on culture should be required watching for startups trying to hire (aka everyone)— John Ashenfelter (@johnashenfelter) September 25, 2014