From Nerves to Cheers: My Journey as a First-Time Speaker at DevFest

Nov 16, 2023ยท

6 min read

From Nerves to Cheers: My Journey as a First-Time Speaker at DevFest
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Hello, there ๐Ÿ‘‹

Today, I will share my experience of stepping on a stage for the first time. On the 11th of November, 2023, I gave a talk at a tech conference with about 100 attendees (whom I barely know). Exciting, right? It wasn't always like that, so let's go behind the scenes of my journey as a first-time speaker and how I overcame small roadblocks.

I came across the opportunity in the community I Lead, Google Developer Student Clubs, MOUAU. One of the co-organizers posted on the community about the event, DevFest Umuahia, and this is the first time it's happening in the city of Umuahia. I just had to attend! I made sure GDSC MOUAU partnered with GDG Umuahia to promote the event.

A few weeks later, they announced the call for speakers, and I was skeptical about applying because I hadn't spoken at a large crowd or a tech conference. More so, I didn't have the "public speaker" vibe. I didn't apply immediately; I had a few conversations with my friends, who all pushed me to apply. They said, "If you get rejected, you won't regret not applying."

Next was choosing a topic; I didn't want to sing the same old song every speaker was singing; I wanted my topic to be different and unique but simple. The first week of October, I got an offer to join Pieces for Developers as a Developer Advocate Intern, so I decided to speak about their tool. I have used it for a while, and it is useful to developers, so "why not talk about my experience with Pieces OS?" I had settled on a topic for my talk, perfect!

I didn't think the topic through and sent my Call For Proposal within 2 days. This was my mistake. I should have consulted my manager, Cole Stark(CMO), first, but when I told him I would speak at a conference. He connected me with the Lead Developer Advocate, Shivay Lamba, who gave me tips on public speaking, addressing the crowd, and staying calm when speaking. I acknowledged my mistakes and worked on giving a better talk during the event (if I got accepted).

On the 23rd of October, 2023, I got an email that my talk was accepted. Oh my! I was excited. Someone appreciated my poorly thought topic and wanted to learn about it, and that was it. Any doubt I had just vanished! You know when you applied for a job you didn't qualify for but still got an interview? Yup! That was how I felt.

Next was crafting the perfect slide for my talk. This was the tricky part. I usually get my slides done by AI on gamma, but this wasn't my usual community virtual event or meetup. This was a foreign land, and I needed a PERFECT slide, which was not good enough.

I reached out to Shivay to get a slide template from the team, and editing it was frustrating; I was blank for 2 days. I had no idea what to write or how to start editing it. Now, this is where I appreciate AI; we talked and came up with a great outline for the slide.

Also, I conducted a survey on Twitter to learn about the productivity challenges faced by other developers. This helped me to collect useful information.

For the next three days, I worked on a 15-page slide presentation based on the outline that my boo, ChatGPT, and I had created. ๐Ÿ˜‚

I didn't work alone since I would partially talk about a company's product. I contacted my manager, Cole Stark, and Shivay Lamba, for assistance so I wouldn't make any mistakes or sell false claims.

With the help of Cole, Shivay, and AI, I created a great slide and shared it with event organizers. I studied this a couple of times because I was anxious and to make sure I got everything right.

Besides Cole and Shivay, I contacted Leon and Segun to get an outsider's perspective and to see if they understood the slide. They were all helpful. The slide is here.

Pro-tip: If you are trying something new, don't hesitate to ask for help. You can reach out to your friends, mentors, colleagues, or tech Twitter. Getting help can save you from a lot of solo "debugging."

The Event (D-day)

It was the day of the event, Saturday, 11th November 2023. I was excited, thrilled, and anxious all at once. I was part of the organizers, so I had to get to the venue at 8 am to set things up.

I had a chance to talk to some volunteers despite being very shy. I'm working on overcoming my shyness, but it's hard for me to approach you and greet you. It was a bit of a challenge, but I managed to converse with some volunteers, who hyped me. I felt less nervous by the end of the setup.

The event started at exactly 10:20 am. This was it! My first DevFest event as a speaker. Attendees arrived a bit late, so the event started a bit late. I saw the event agenda by 10 am, and my talk was scheduled for 12:30 am.

I had to grab something to snack on, so I left around 10:30 am and tried calming my nerves. It did work.

Pro-tip: If you ever feel nervous about an interview, event, or anything. Take a walk!

After listening to amazing speakers talk, I was ready for my talk. My topic was "Maximizing Developer Productivity with Pieces"

Due to some delay, my talk was shifted to 1:30 pm. At first, I was sad I could not grab the crowd's attention because the attendees were getting tired. I had to remind myself that pushing myself out of my comfort zone was good enough, and if my talk flopped, I would take this as a training phase to improve.

I got up stage and talked extensively to the best of my knowledge about developer productivity, how to boost productivity as a developer, tools to use, and how Pieces can help boost developer workflow. It was awesome! I wasn't nervous at the end! I had delivered an amazing talk. I did answer a question about Pieces OS, though (and I did that confidently).

When I returned to my seat, a friend whispered, "You did good. That was awesome". I just knew that if my talk were confusing, it would help a few people at least. I was so surprised by how many people approached me about productivity. We talked, exchanged WhatsApp contacts, and had a fun conversation.


Yeah, this is my experience. I may have missed some details because I am still excited and proud of myself for taking this huge step. It's not easy, but it's worth it.

If you have an opportunity to speak at a conference or local meetups, seize it! It's fun but scary, and you get to meet more people faster.

I am looking forward to sharing my experience speaking at DevFest Aba.

Till then,

Ciao! ๐Ÿ˜ƒ

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