I have spoken on multiple conferences, user groups, tech days, and similar events. I know how to make a good presentation and how to emphasize the key points I want my audience to take away.
So what's the problem with my anxiety?
- The more experience with a specific topic I have, the more I see how many things there are yet to explore (Dunning–Kruger effect?). I fear of getting questions I can't answer. I fear people finding out I don't know everything.
- I expect people to have the same level of knowledge about a specific topic as I do. I understand that my experience might be slightly deeper, but only a bit. I tend to overestimate others and underestimate myself.
- I think what I want to share is already widely known. That I'm not bringing anything new and interesting.
And this always leads to anxiety whenever I am asked to go on stage. The feeling of all the people watching me, trusting me with their time, it's a lot to take in.
Lately, I've been asked to speak at a JS VidCon conference. As many conferences this year went virtual, JS VidCon wanted me to prerecord the session in advance and gave me a week to finalize everything before their crew was available for the recording. You would think that speaking to a webcam would be easier. You would think being in your home environment would help. You would think...
But I came up with a brilliant idea. In the past, whenever I was unhappy with my presentations it was mainly because I forgot a thing or two that I wanted to say. Pre-recording the presentation would allow me to prepare a good script and just read it. Yes, but not looking at a camera while doing that would look dull. So I spent a day researching the topic of building a teleprompter. The device that mirrors your speech onto glass in front of the camera so that you can read the text and look into the camera at the same time.
There are millions of printable 3D parts available online, but a teleprompter for my Logitech C920 webcam. So I had to design it first, print it, and cut plexiglass to desired dimensions.
That I did, however, I printed it on my old 3D printer and experienced issues with every single print (article coming!), so I managed to assemble the teleprompter exactly 2 days after my presentation recording date :-)
Nevertheless, I am now prepared for improving the quality of my offline videos. And it's one of the first meaningful things I ever printed :-)
But it did not help me with the anxiety. The only thing that helps me every time is actually doing what I fear. Going on stage and talking to people. I learned from my experience that:
- People are very forgiving. If you are nervous, they won't judge you. If you're not a native English speaker, they won't pick on your language.
- The experience among people varies a lot. And people know that about themselves. It's good to start with the basics and reiterate the basic points to make sure you're on the same page with your audience. I welcome this as an attendee very much.
- You can never satisfy every single attendee. Some people will leave during your talk. This always puts me off track and I start feeling as if my presentation is not good enough. But 99.5% of your audience is still there and engaged in what you are saying.
- It's OK if you don't know an answer to a question from the audience. Nobody knows everything. If someone from the audience knows the answer and will come forward, you will get to learn something too.
- If your presentation helps at least one developer, it's a victory.
The feeling of finishing a presentation that people liked is awesome. It's definitely worth every single second spent on preparing and rehearsing the presentation.
Now, if you're interested, the mentioned presentation will be streamed on JS VidCon on Thursday 7th May at 9:30 PM GMT. I am looking forward to seeing you and appreciate any feedback :-)