Rosa and Charlotte will both be speaking at Bytes Conf here in Brighton next week (don’t bother trying to get a ticket—it’s all sold out).

I’ve been helping them in their preparation, listening to them run through their talks, and offering bits of advice on the content and delivery. Charlotte said she was really nervous presenting to just the two of us. I said “I know what you mean.”

In the past I’ve tried giving practice run-throughs of upcoming conference talks to some of my co-workers at Clearleft. I always found that far more intimidating than giving the talk to room filled with hundreds of strangers.

In fact, just last night I did a practice run of my latest talk at Brighton’s excellent Async gathering, and seeing both Charlotte and Graham in attendance increased my nervousness.

Why is that?

I’ve been thinking about it, and I think it comes down to self-presentation.

We like to think that we have one single personality, but the truth is that we adjust our behaviour constantly to suit the situation. I behave differently when I’m interacting with a shopkeeper than when I’m interacting with my co-workers than when I’m interacting with my family. We adjust how we present ourselves, in subtle and not-so-subtle ways.

If you’re presenting a talk at a conference, it helps to present yourself differently than how you’d present yourself when you’re hanging out with your friends. There’s an element of theatricality—however subtle—in speaking in front of a room full of people. It can really help to slip into a more confident persona.

But if you’re presenting that same talk in a small room to a group of friends, it feels really, really strange to slip into that persona. It feels as strange as interacting with your family as though you were interacting with a shopkeeper.

I think that’s what’s at the root of the discomfort I feel when I try testing a talk on my co-workers. If I present myself in the informal mode I’d usually take with these people, the talk feels all wrong. But if I present myself in my stage persona, it feels weird to do that with these people. So either way, it’s going to feel really strange. Hence the nervousness.

Thing is …I’m not sure if being aware of this helps in any way.

Have you published a response to this? :


Scott Jehl

@adactio This really put to words a feeling I’ve always had but never examined well. Maybe acknowledging that first helps w/ small groups?

# Posted by Scott Jehl on Thursday, December 10th, 2015 at 2:47pm


# Liked by Tim Kadlec on Thursday, December 10th, 2015 at 2:56pm

# Liked by Jan Skovgaard on Thursday, December 10th, 2015 at 3:23pm

Previously on this day

5 years ago I wrote Be progressive

Progressive enhancement, developer convenience, and isomorphic JavaScript.

8 years ago I wrote Brookland

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11 years ago I wrote Chuff Chuff, Huffduff

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13 years ago I wrote Pictorial Ajaxitagging

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16 years ago I wrote Wi-Fi wants to be free

Here’s an interesting article about Wi-Fi that makes the point that trying to make people pay for wireless access is often more trouble than it’s worth:

16 years ago I wrote Updates abound

A List Apart is back! But you probably knew that already.

17 years ago I wrote The Han Solo Affair

The funniest piece of Lego animation I’ve seen yet.

18 years ago I wrote Apple - iPod

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