Behind the scenes of my first talk

A couple of weeks ago I gave a talk at our local JavaScript meetup. It was my first talk ever, and, as you can probably imagine, I had a couple of notable moments. And I’d like to share them.

Giving a talk was on my secret to-do list for a long while. So when George (our regional director at Mixbook Moldova) asked me if I’d be willing to give a talk, the answer was: OK. Even though I hesitated a little at first, much of what was needed for that answer was already ripe in my mind.

So I started to prepare. There were phases: I went back and forth between “OMG, what am I going to talk about?!” and “All right, I’m ready!” :-)

I’ve contacted the organizers about a month before the event, so there was still plenty of time. I’ve read and heard a lot about preparing a talk, but one of the things that seemed to make sense more than others was to first give it to a smaller audience. So about a week before the public event, I’ve announced on an internal mailing list, and presented internally at the Mixbook Moldova office.

The result was mostly discouraging; for 2 reasons:

  1. I realized that the content pieces didn’t come well together to form a cohesive whole. At times, I just got my mind going blank, and then I fell back to just read the next slide and ramble something about what was on it.

  2. Although the feedback I got from my teammates was reasonable, I didn’t know how to make a coherent story out of of it all, in one single talk.

On the next day, George asked:

— How is it going?
— Err… I’m glad I gave it internally first… I’ve got some good feedback… I’ll look over it this weekend.
— Hey, what’s to fuss that much about?! You know what you’re talking about, don’t you?

I think there were a couple more line on both sides in that dialog, but this is the one that rang a bell in my mind: “You know what you’re talking about!” This was true: I had this excitement about what I discovered about TypeScript, it was a real, practical thing that I was experiencing first-hand, and using in a production project at work. Why not share that instead of forcing my story into a slide-deck?

So I just put my initial plan and slides away, and started afresh: a fresh bullet list in my Workflowy — the v0.3 (v0.1 was what I had presented internally, and v0.2 that I tried to put together after that). I decided I’ll just use that bullet list, tell my story as I would have told it to a friend, show some real code from our project, and that’s what I presented at the event. It was probably not perfect, but I know it was the best I could give as my first talk.