Last year I set myself some speaking goals. They were:
- Six talks.
- Speak on three continents.
- Give a keynote.
How did I do?
My idea was “no more than six talks” and whether or not I adhered to it depends on your definition of “talk”.
I gave 6 conference talks: Try!Swift Tokyo, OSCON, Self.Conference, Write|Speak|Code, 360iDev, and RubyConf CO.
- Spoke at a meetup.
- Co-MC’d my first conference.
- Co-ran 3 workshops.
Yes! North America, South America, and Asia.
Not really. I opened a day of Write|Speak|Code, and gave a general session at 360iDev. A goal to carry through to 2017.
What Did I Talk About?
I gave three talks this year.
- Applied Humaning for Technical Interviews. OSCON and RubyConfCo. This is a talk about being a better interviewer – it stars my favourite raccoon. I talk about getting yourself in the right mindset to interview, how to project warmth, bias – how it effects people’s experiences and our feedback. Finally I touch on how we can try and help our teams interview better, too.
- How to be Invisible. Try!Swift Tokyo and 360iDev. A talk about how the best user experience is sometimes no user experience at all, and the difference between building tools and digital crack. I see this as the third in the series, after Distractedly Intimate (my 2014 mobile design talk) and Mobile is a Systems Problem (2015) [notes].
- Some Things I’ve Learned About Color. Self.Conference and Write|Speak|Code. The talk with the most viral tweets. A talk that will never be recorded and notes I will never blog. It’s about the five causes of burnout that are not overwork, how these relate to the experience of under-indexed folk in tech, and how side projects can help. I talk about leaving tech, and finding my way back. It features this amazing video my friend Sumana created.
These were very different. Some Things I’ve Learned About Color is probably the most powerful talk I’ve given – the one that people reacted most intensely to. It’s also the most overtly “diversity” talk I’ve given, since I mostly try and treat inclusion as a foundation rather than give talks about “diversity”. Applied Humaning is the most practical, I gather that people found it useful. I don’t think I really got How to be Invisible right, but I think those ideas are important and I’ll have to figure out how to do something with them that people will be more receptive to.
I recorded three podcasts this year! A good way to practise extemporaneous speaking. Also: super fun!
There were some highlights this year. I really enjoyed my first time MCing. We were paid for the workshops, which was exciting – it’s hard to get paid to speak.
But, there were a number of lowlights.
- Having to negotiate security at an event. This was really traumatic, and not dealt with well initially – although later someone else stepped up and handled it really well. There’s now some kind of harassment policy named after me, which is… well maybe one day something will be named after me that isn’t depressing.
- I was so sick at one conference that I had to 1) push my talk back a day (I am forever grateful to the speaker who swapped with me!) 2) in the middle, I played a video and since I could barely stand up had the idea to kneel on the floor and kind of lie in the podium. This seemed like a brilliant idea until I realised I would need to stand up again. Not my most poised moment.
- Another speaker dropped out at the last minute, so after MC-ing an event I flew all night, and then went and spoke at another event a few hours after I got off the plane. I was happy to help the organisers out of a tough spot, but wow that was brutal.
- Some anonymised talk feedback that I can still quote pieces of, but here’s a gem, “the speaker kept talking about useless things like feelings”. Perhaps I should talk about useful things, like “vim or emacs”.
When I look back at this year’s speaking, I realise that I didn’t find much joy in speaking this year. I did it. I did my best at it, in a couple of difficult situations. My talks were in general well received and appreciated.
But I didn’t really enjoy it. When I walked off the stage after my last talk in Medellín, I determined that I wouldn’t give another one until mid-2017.
As a result, my 2017 speaking goals are aimed at enjoying it again. They are:
- Give a talk I’m proud of.
- Try something new.
This builds on my baseline constraints for speaking, which are the same as our considerations for including CfPs in Technically Speaking – there must be a code of conduct, and a provision for travel costs. When I can get my job to cover travel, I ask to have them listed as a sponsor and look for them to support speaker or attendee diversity with the money they save on my flights etc.
These goals are vague, perhaps not really goals at all. But sometimes we make progress with concrete actions, and sometimes we can make a more creative leap by chasing something more ephemeral instead. One of the ways I’ve levelled up my speaking is by having someone else create my decks for me – she did all my decks this year. I also worked with a speaker coach a lot in 2014 – this was invaluable. In 2017 I hope I’ll find another such thing. I just don’t know what it is, yet.