About attitude, personal growth and community

It’s been quite a long time since I have been writing after a conference I joined as a speaker. Today something clicked and I felt like I had to put my thoughts down while driving back home from MobiConf (no worries, Francesca Bertola is actually driving the car 😂 ).

The new opportunity

A few months ago, MobiConf organizers reached out and invited me to speak in Krakow. I knew about MobiConf already and, since I have been to App Builders, I liked the idea of a multiplatform, multidisciplinary conference very much.

At the time the invitation came in, I was busting my ass modularizing a couple of Android projects to simplify and decouple the code base. I was also investigating Kotlin Coroutines, even if, on paper, they were still “experimental”.

The old attitude

As a senior engineer, I strongly believe that we need to invest time and energy in being early adopters. We need to be those that try and evaluate a technology to validate solutions and smooth out rough edges to be able to help those who can’t. It’s very rewarding to be able to help a junior developer who wants to try and learn a new technology, but for any possible reason is struggling and could use some help.

With the same attitude, I was also experimenting with different solutions for Dependency Injection and Service Location, to improve my relationship with Dagger.

I started to chat about this with a few friends and a talk idea was born. At that point, MobiConf staff was kind enough to bet on me even if I only had a rough idea of what I was going to talk about.

The new approach

Weeks went by and I started to work on my talk. For the first time I tried a different approach to lay down the first draft: a walk.

My classic approach has always been:

  1. Decide the topic
  2. Gather the ideas I want to share
  3. Create a draft of the slides and using Presenter Notes to create an engaging story to support the slides.

This time I wanted to start with the story first and I thought that, as for a lot of people, walking allows me to free my mind and facilitate my thoughts flow. Turn out this is actually a thing that our brain does pretty often: ever seen somebody walking in circles around the room while on the phone?

So I simply

  1. Got the dog
  2. Got the leash
  3. Got a mic
  4. Started recording myself
  5. Started walking
  6. Started talking

One hour later, I had the first draft of my talk. MobiConf provided every speaker with a presentation template, so I fired up my Keynote and I prepared my presentation draft.

How do we get feedback now?

Micro-bravery

Micro-bravery is a concept that I learned some time ago in an episode of the Tim Ferris’s podcast. The basic idea is that you gain more and more confidence thanks to a series of more and more challenging tasks.

When people ask me about how to start with public speaking, I always suggest the micro-bravery approach and I wish I had somebody back in the day suggesting that to me when I started. My first talk at a conference was at Droidcon Berlin in 2015. I had no experience and I was presenting a new topic back then: RxJava. Droidcon took a bet on me at the time, putting this funny Italian guy in the main room as the closing talk of the conference.

I was super happy to be there and I was happy to show RxJava, but I was also massively nervous. When I realized that I was in the main room I almost freaked out. When I saw the room full of people, I got seriously nervous. When I saw them adding more chairs to accommodate even more people, I felt like I was losing it.

The talk went well, but if you pay attention to the first five minutes of the video on YouTube, you will perceive my panic. It faded out as I went through the slides, but I will remember it forever.

We can do better 😄 Nowadays I implement and advice micro-bravery:

  1. Give your talk at your company and gather feedback from your colleagues. This is the safest environment for you to give your talk the first run. If you don’t feel safe giving the talk at your company, quit. It’s clearly a toxic work environment. You deserve better and they don’t deserve you. If you need help, reach out to me.
  2. Give your talk at your local favorite meetup. Meetups are safe places. I’m incredibly lucky to hang out with the lovely people of Berlindroid. We usually gather at c-base and from a venue point you can’t go nerdier than that 😂 For the MobiConf talk, I volunteered via Twitter, Mario Bodemann approved and BAM the thing was set. After the talk I asked for feedback and I got a variety of them: Miquel Beltran suggested to increase the font, Hasan warned me about a few points in the code that would be deprecated in the upcoming Kotlin version, Sasa Sekulic suggested that I could rearrange a couple of slides to improve the story telling.
  3. Give the talk at the conference. At this point, you have a different confidence in yourself and the quality of your material. You will once more get feedback and you will improve even more for the next conference.

These three steps always help me to approach every public speaking event with confidence and excitement. Simon Sinek once said that, in these type of situations, most people think they are nervous because, when you are nervous, your hands sweat, your heart rate is going crazy.

But if you pause for a moment and think about what happens when you are excited… well, your hands are sweating and your heart is pumping like crazy…

At your next conference, you won’t be nervous, you will be excited 😉