I am right now on the train back to London after attending the Reasons to be Creative conference in Brighton, England. How was it? Short answer: splendid, indeed.
Can has keynote?
When the organisers approached me to speak after giving a talk at the reasons to be appy conference I wasn’t quite sure if I’d be a fit, and for just for the heck of it I asked for the keynote slot to make it worth while. Big mouth strikes again: they agreed so I was in a bit of a pickle.
Wait, what? Stage fright(-ish thing) kicking in
Why? Well, I was nervous. Yes, the guy who speaks at dozens of conferences every month and is part of a training program for people to become evangelists got nervous. As I put it, I was bricking it. My normal reaction to speaking is a bit like a puppy seeing a shiny red ball. I love it and I go for it and won’t let go as I have too much fun doing it. A keynote is a big thing though, and can make or break the start of the day and the Dome in Brighton is a huge venue.
I have a few principles as a speaker, which I also tell anyone who wants to speak are a great idea to consider. They are a lot of work but worth it:
- I am there for the audience to give them a great time, give them information and get them excited to try something out
- I should speak to the audience in a way that is understandable and engaging to them
- My goal should be to give the audience something to take away to try out and to impress their bosses or peers with
- Always be fresh – do not repeat the same things over and over again
Creative eye for the coder/writer guy
Now, with Reasons to be Creative I was very much out of my comfort zone. I am a tech and writing guy, whenever I try to be visually creative whatever I do are “happy accidents” and I have a deep respect and lots of jealousy for people who can draw a beautifully curved line or paint a character or even know the first thing about typography.
Reasons to be Creative used to be Flash on the Beach, a conference celebrating Flash and interactive Art and all things visual. So not me.
Shaun Tan the man
Good, I thought and looked around to be inspired. Luckily enough Marc Thiele who organises the Beyond Tellerand conference and is very connected with Reasons to be Creative got me a book as a present in the past that just blew me away: The Arrival by Shaun Tan, a graphic novel without any text but just the most stunning little pictures telling a beautiful story. I got more of his work from my partner, and one of the books I got was The lost Thing by Shaun Tan. I devoured this book and the movie and had a lightbulb moment. I can do a talk about the lost thing we call the web and how we as a community fail to nourish it with our knowledge as we are too busy impressing each other with things that could be if we called the shots. As we do call the shots if we just take ownership of our work and the outcome, this was a good start for a talk.
So I wrote the talk and split it up into slides and spent more time than usual “designing” it (adding a “dangling picture” animation feature to the images) and I was ready to go.
You can see the slides here:
To try out the talk (something I normally never do) the people who couldn’t attend the conferences I thought it good to record a screencast of it (about half an hour long). This one sticks more or less to my notes.
Now, on stage this was different. As soon as I started and shared my excitement and awkwardness about the gap between me and the audience with them I was off to the races. The 50 minute live version of the keynote deviates heavily from the notes but shows that simply going for it does the trick.
The feedback was very good indeed and I am happy we got that over with but I’d be doing it again – it was a great experience.
Not one to waste an opportunity, I used my learnings from the experience to give a quick 5 minute talk at Ubelly’s Soapbox. The Soapbox is an idea by Ubelly to have a small stage for speakers to give 5 minute passionate talks about any subject and it will travel around a few conference.
Originally I promised to speak there about how I built my HTML slides for the keynote but as Jake Archibald did the same I talked instead how I de-bricked myself for giving the keynote using the opportunity to promote the Evangelism Reps program I spend most of my time on these days.
The De-bricking yourself – starting out as a speaker slides are here and I will post more about this on the Evangelism Reps mailing list and here soon.