You’ll notice that I’m in that line-up, but don’t worry—I’m not giving a talk. I’ll be there as host. That means I get to introduce the speakers before they speak, and ask them a question or two afterwards.
I really, really enjoy hosting events. And yet I always get quite anxious in the run-up. I think it’s because there isn’t much I can do to prepare.
During The Situation, I had something of an advantage when I was hosting UX Fest. The talks were pre-recorded, which meant that I could study them ahead of time. At a live event, I won’t have that luxury. Instead, I need to make sure that I pay close attention to each talk and try to come up with good questions.
Based on past experience, my anxiety is unwarranted. Once I’m actually talking to these super-smart people, the problem isn’t a lack of things to discuss, but the opposite—so much to talk about in so little time!
I keep trying to remind myself of that.
See, it’s different if I’m speaking at an event. Sure, I’ll get nervous, but I can do something about it. I can prepare and practice to alleviate any anxiety. I feel like I have more control over the outcome when I’m giving a talk compared with hosting.
In fact, I do have a speaking gig on the horizon. I’ll be giving a brand new talk at An Event Apart in San Francisco in December.
It was just a month ago when Jeffrey invited me to speak. Of course I jumped at the chance—it’s always an honour to be asked—but I had some trepidation about preparing a whole new talk in time.
I’ve mentioned this before but it takes me aaaaaaaages to put a talk together. Don’t get me wrong; I think it’s worth it. I may not be good at much, but I know I can deliver a really good conference talk …once I’ve spent ridiculously long preparing it.
But more recently I’ve noticed that I’ve managed to shorten this time period. Partly that’s because I recklessly agree to prepare the talk in a shorter amount of time—nothing like a deadline to light a fire under my ass. But it’s also because a lot of the work is already done.
When I have a thought or an opinion about something, I write it down here on my own website. They’re brain farts, but their my brain farts. I consider them half-baked, semi-formed ideas.
For a conference talk, I need something fully-baked and well-formed. But I can take a whole bunch of those scrappy blog posts and use them as raw material.
There’s still a lot of work involved. As well as refining the message I want to get across, I have to structure these thoughts into a narrative thread that makes sense. That’s probably the hardest part of preparing a conference talk …and the most rewarding.
So while I’ve been feeling somewhat under the gun as I’ve been preparing this new talk for An Event Apart, I’ve also been feeling that the talk is just the culmination; a way of tying together some stuff I’ve been writing about it here for the past year or two.
It’s still entirely possible that the talk could turn out to be crap, but I think the odds are in my favour. I’ve been able to see how the ideas I’ve been writing about have resonated with people, so I can feel pretty confident that they’ll go down well in a talk.
As for the topic of the talk? All will be revealed.