The junior speaker

I have been very lucky. I have to admit. But maybe I also worked a lot for what I have achieved.

A lot of things happened in the last weeks and months, I have travelled around a lot, talked a lot, thought a lot and learned a lot.

It is time for a retrospective.

What happened. After we have been very successful with various things we do to our frontend at trivago, like refactoring our CSS or introducing a Pattern Library I wanted to share our experiences not only with articles but also with speaking at conferences. I did my first talk at the PHP Usergroup Düsseldorf in the beginning of 2014. The experiences there empowered and motivated me to continue speaking. I refined my talk and were lucky enough to have my first conference proposal accepted at the code.talks conference 2014 in Hamburg. I talked in german about our very successful adaptive responsive design which we had implemented in 3 weeks in the end of 2013.

It has been amazing. Standing in front of 400 people, being recorded and blended by all those lights. I wanted to continue but 2015 was a year of a lot of groundwork, e.g. for implementing a Design System at large scale. But I used the chance to speak at the LeanUX Meetup in Düsseldorf at an event where also Brad Frost was invited. I talked about our experiences with code and design inconsistency and our first steps adapting a pattern library.

In the end of 2015 we made huge steps forward with rebuilding our UI at large scale. I wanted to share our experiences. After I have done a talk at the Open Tech School Meetup in Dortmund and people enjoyed my talk, I started to apply for various conferences in Europe.

I didn’t expect organizers to accept my talk, so I did 5 CFP’s and hoped maybe one of them will be accepted. I was wrong. 4 of 5 CFP’s have been accepted.

My talks were selected for Symfony Live Cologne, Codemotion Amsterdam, Frontend United and ScotlandCSS. I was a bit surprised and overwhelmed. But I like to get things done, so why not speaking at all of them.

Preparing, training and performing a talk costs a lot of effort. At least for me. It took me hours to come with a first version, which I then performed at a local Meetup — The Webworker NRW. A very nice meetup with a lot of very kind people. I didn’t even know the order of my slides, but I was still able to get my story transferred to the audience. People provided me with a lot of valuable feedback. I was still in the opinion that I don’t need any speaker notes but to do everything spontaneously.

The JSUnconf came in between. A good opportunity for me to propose my talk in the voting session. People liked the topic very much and voted a lot. So it happened that I had the first session with my talk proposal. I should have said that I didn’t had a good night and only very few hours of sleep but this didn’t stop me. My talk performance was I would like to say OK. In regards to less sleep and still don’t using speaker notes I maybe did even quite well. But in the end I have been stuck in a “Umm, basically…” mode. I have been out of vocabularies. Nevertheless feedback was overwhelming and a lot of people asked questions and I was even asked to do a Q&A session on the next day. At the end — again — I have received very valuable feedback from the attendees.

The week after there was Symfony Live in Cologne. This was a blast. The conference was in german and entertaining the audience in your native language is way more easy than in a foreign language. I realized I don’t need speaker notes in my native language, but when I do talks in a non-native language. The talk was quite entertaining and the audience was so lovely and laughed a lot about my jokes which made it very easy for me to get my talk done in a very entertaining way. Hope to see the video cut soon.

I had a break of 12 days. Then Codemotion Amsterdam. A very lovely and diverse full-stack conference. But I made a mistake, first of all I have learned that you should always take a day off before a talk to be more relaxed and not distracted by other things that can happen e.g. at work. Second, it is not a good idea to try to save some money for your accomodation and so next time I will think twice whether it is a good idea to choose a hostel before doing a talk. To be honest I think I slept 2h. Also because I tend to be nervous but the noise level in the hostel was way higher than expected. But who cares. I had to get my talk done anyways. So I performed, not excellent but I got my message across. Again — shame on me — without speakernotes.

I never did the same talk but always tried to adapted my talk for the audience as well as based on the feedback I got. The challenge for Frontend United and ScotlandCSS was now to get it into a 20 minute and 30 minute slot and make it a bit more technical and use a technique called speaker notes 😉

I did so. Frontend United was a blast. Such a lovely small conference. I am very grateful to be part of it. My talk has been successful. Having speaker notes helped me to keep focus but I was still able to keep a bit of authenticity. I hope my video will be published soon.

Only 3 days later I was in Edinburgh, the showdown of my Project Ironman tour. I have never been that nervous before a talk. It was always a dream since I started with doing talks to be a speaker on a CSS conference. I was very proud and so grateful. But also very nervous. I went on the stage and according to most of the audience I delivered a great talk. I still have to wait for the video but for my personal interpretation this has been the best talk I ever did in english.

Thanks a lot to all the people involved in those weeks, be it with cheering me up, motivating me and supporting me. A special thanks to my colleagues at trivago. You are awesome.

I have also experienced some bad things. It might be natural that people get envy and show you that with words and actions, but those people will always exist. I didn’t expect it would hit me so hard. If 99 people cheer you up and 1 person tries to let you down, the latter will be the winner. I have to work on that.

Also I have learned that you have a lot more responsibility as a speaker than I have initially imagined. With great power comes great responsibility. Especially if you are authentic and love to make jokes about everything including yourself It can be very easy to offend people. This gets worse if you are not a native speaker. People might get your words wrong. On the other hand you might have a great power while being on stage which you should be aware of and choose your words wisely, but you are also very vulnerable in this moment. Every word, every gesture, every facial expression might get tracked and there is no chance to revert any of your actions and words whether they were intended or not.

All in all it has been such a great time. I have done 6 talks on conferences, unconferences and meetups in 6 and 1/2 weeks! Still don’t know how I was able to get all this done. I’m very grateful especially to the organizers and attendees of the mentioned events. I have met a lot of wonderful people. Hope I’ll stay in contact with them.

THANK YOU!


Originally published at blog.creinartz.de on June 9, 2016.