My First Experience Giving a Talk @Devfest El Bayadh 2023
Disclaimer: I take you through my thought process as I was preparing for my first talk. This is more personal, so you might not get any value from reading this. It’s something to document about my journey, a piece I know I’d love to read in the future.
It was during my final Master’s exams that I was contacted by a member of GDG El Bayadh (Google Developer Groups) asking if I am interested in giving/delivering a talk for their DevFest annual event on the 23rd December.
FYI, El Bayadh is a small city in Algeria where nothing happens.
I was pretty stressed at the time, which is interesting, because I am not the kind that ever got stressed over exams before. But this time, I was.
We had 12 exams to go through, thankfully one exam a day. It however spanned across 3 weeks in total (don’t ask me how). It was a marathon to cram for every class the night before.
We’d finish exams on the 20th, that’s 3 days for preparation (minus 1 to travel back El Bayadh).
So given the masochist that I am, I accepted. And now I need to figure out what to talk about.
Realization and struggle
But wait, what the hell do I know well enough to give a talk about?! My mind was blank.
What do I even do? I freelance as a front end developer, but I am not sure what topic to talk about that would be valuable to the audience. Wait, I completely forgot about the audience…
I’ve given presentations in the past academically, but it’s always to people that were either paid (professors) or forced (students) to be there. But this time it’s different. People will come out of interest and/or curiosity.
That changes the dynamics.
After asking the organizers about the demographics of the audience they’re expecting, they said they’re mostly university students from different backgrounds, as well as high schoolers. So I interpreted this as people that are interested in tech and/or beginners in development.
That ended up being a correct interpretation.
I got the idea to talk about technical writing, which was suggested to me too by some of my friends, but then I discarded it. I found it hypocritical to talk about something I failed to commit to. I’ve been writing sporadically over the last 3 years, and I only had ~11k views in total.
Then I recognized that I deal with this problem occasionally when I want to publish an article too, seeing myself as not good enough to share my thoughts/experiences or to try to explain a concept.
The way I resolve this is by mainly reminding myself that no matter how bad I think I am or how much I suck, there’s surely someone that’s worse out there, someone who’s just starting their journey for example. That’s my target audience. There’s a high chance they’d find value in what I say… or so I’d like to think.
So I reverted back to the idea of technical writing, it seems to have a low barrier of entry, and includes a wide range of disciplines, which suits the audience.
I started preparing for it the eve of the talk.
I decided to give the talk in Algerian dialect. I wanted it to be more accessible to the crowd. While I would have preferred English to encourage youngsters to learn it more, it was not my objective for this talk.
I never scripted my presentations before, I hated preparing for them too. I like to improvise, it has always served me well.
But this time, I was not sure. It seemed to me that it would be unjust if I spoke nonsense to an audience that actually wanted to attend, especially since the talks are 20min long.
So I started scribbling here and there.
The day of the talk
My talk was the first one, I liked that. It wouldn’t be a problem to set the bar low, because I am the first, and I could get done with it and focus on the other talks afterwards, instead of thinking about mine.
The event was planned to start at 8h30 AM. I was there at ~7h30, sitting in front of the stage, waiting. My heart was racing, and I felt sick in my stomach. Very sick. Time was not passing by.
Eventually, the event started after 9AM, and I was up.
Thankfully, the moment I stood in front of the crowd, set up the presentation, I was back to normal. I was myself again.
It went smoothly. I communicated the ideas I wanted to, and 18 minutes later, I was done.
I couldn’t tell how the audience took it, but there was one guy who seemed interested that approached me during the coffee break with questions, which lead to a cool discussion.
To me, it takes only one person to benefit from what I share to consider myself successful at it. I’d like to think I was this time.
I am very happy that I got to meet cool people that I knew from the internet (yes. they’re real): Karim and Houari. It was a pleasure!
You also get some free photoshoots, and if you don’t usually make weird faces, you get to use them. Unlike myself:
Follow my journey on Twitter
You can find me on Twitter @yamanidev where I am most active, documenting my journey and sharing what I learn about software engineering and tech in general.
don’t forget to touch some grass.