First experience of speaking at a conference in London

Posted: March 11, 2023

Microphone at a conference

This week I had a chance to speak at the Big Data & AI World event in London. Surprisingly it was a first experience of public speaking at this scale of events for me as previously for some reason they’ve been passing by me. I think that maybe I’m too introvert to enjoy so large events and also have too much of an impostor syndrome to think that my random experience of reinventing a wheel in various companies across the industry may be useful to someone. (which is maybe at least partially not true, but anyway) And now finally thought that it’s time and I have something to share with the world.

There was actually one time when I did a public talk, it was back in 2019 when I worked at Pandao ( back in Moscow. Our lead of product and design had suggested the conference that has been held, we have prepared a speech, had practice with some of the internal assistance on public speaking. And we even did an interview with some guys from one of the online media, the interview is available here (text in Russian). The video of the speech itself (without my part but with my former coworker) is available here but you have to pay $7 to watch it full.

For a while I was thinking to do another public talk. But I was procrastinating, thinking, until short after the Christmas / New Year holidays I realised there will be a conference in London in a couple of months and there is a chance to participate in it. “Why not?” thought I, as it seemed to be quite an interesting addition to usual working routine and submitted the talk.

We will omit here the discussion of interesting process of receiving the necessary approvals to speak there, which had its interesting moments, maybe I will write about it sometimes later. Finally I got everything I needed, the presentation was ready and I was about to speak.

Surprisingly, I wasn’t that much nervous about the speaking how I thought I would be. Maybe just a couple of times I woke up at night (we all love those great ideas that pop up in your head when you randomly wake up at night, they are always very constructive and add a lot of value) and thought that my speech is so random and obvious and I just share some common knowledge without adding anything new to the table. But during the daytime I wasn’t much nervous. Maybe running through the deck with a coworker and with my wife helped. Also I’ve found a video of audience on YouTube (only 5 minutes long and it could be possible to loop it if there were no stupid applause) and launched it on my projector to practice once in front of “audience”. Maybe it helped. That could be a really cool use case for Metaverse, not sure if there is some app with a speech practice, but if you could customise the audience, maybe include avatars of your coworkers / famous people, share the slides – that could be quite helpful. There is seemingly a portal which offers something like that.

The morning of the event I woke up nervous. “Finally, there’s this familiar feeling”, but eventually it got easier, I went to the place of the event and started looking around. The venue is so FREAKING HUGE, even though my event was huge enough, I managed to try and get to the separate huge event mistakenly so this was even not the only event happening there. So then I found the right event and got there. It was something like 1 hour before my talk, in the meanwhile I walked around, grabbed some coffee, listened to one more speech (which was quite interesting) and found the place where I would speak.

The speech went nice (from my side), was good enough for the first talk. The stage itself wasn’t that big (thank god), maybe for 30-40 seats, but everything was well-organised, the audience had headphones to hear me better and understand something of my Russian accent (hope they did, as the people who got to me with questions later were mainly Russian-speaking). I don’t know if the talk was useful to people, just can hope that they took something out of it. Later, after answering a couple of questions and listening to one more talk I decided to go back home. It was quite stuffy and hot in the venue, also they’ve ran out of food for speakers although it was lunchtime (or maybe I haven’t found it / came not in the perfect time). So I went to Camden Market to grab my favourite polish hot-dog and have some rest.

So the impressions of the event and of the speaking experience itself are rather positive. Would I do it again? Likely yes, but I would definitely work more on some topic to present so that it’s useful and prepared in advance to be sure that I’m bringing something interesting and new to the table. Maybe I would choose the different type of event as I’m an introvert and also I would prefer smaller cosier meetup to huge event that is free to the public but at the cost of having a million of stends of startups who have paid for participation. Also I would rather speak to practitioners in a smaller circle. The event seemed a bit too overwhelming to enjoy and stay longer. Maybe it’s just me.

Some people have asked for the slides, and although I have not so much content there (most of it was voice-over), just leaving it here in case it can be helpful (you can also download them). Will look for photos of the event and will add them if there are some later.

Download slides of presentation

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