At first I was afraid, I was petrified!
“Big bear!” I chanted, making myself appear as big as I could.
At WP Engine, my shift lead taught me that making yourself as big as possible can increase confidence, and I needed all the confidence I could get. I would do this big bear pose before hitting enter on my terminal, before a practice interviews with the world’s most intimidating lead systems engineer, and now at KubeCon EU as I prayed that the “147 attendees” for my talk would stop pouring in.
“Big bear!” my significant other chanted, imitating my stance.
I kept thinking about Container World, where I gave my first talk, and how I worked on my slides up until the second I got on stage. No matter how much content I added, my talk was never long enough to meet the 40 minutes that I requested. I wore heels to try and make myself appear more confident and powerful. Those heels ultimately ended up with me not moving an inch on stage. My talk ended up being only twenty minutes. I avoided questions like the plague, but ultimately had to answer some. I was scared I would be heckled or called a fraud for not knowing the answers. But, that didn’t happen, and I didn’t die.
That’s right, I didn’t die. I read a plethora of blogs and articles before I got on stage for that first talk. I figured I could study my way to be the perfect speaker. I wanted to be the next Kelsey Hightower. But even Kelsey started somewhere. Maybe he was once on a stage, at a small conference, or in a room full of engineers he thought knew more than him, and he was scared. That fear is okay! Let it fuel you, not stop you.
None of those blogs or articles got me over my nervousness, and neither will this one. I want this blog to justify your emotions, your midnight rum-filled cry sessions of regret, and your morning-of anxiety attack shower breakdowns. I want this blog to let you know that it happens to everyone, and you’re going to be okay. I want to tell you that, because that is what I wanted.
There’s no easy way to get over the fear of speaking in front of people. There’s no life hack or trick I can give you to be confident. You just have to do it. That’s it. It is scary, it is hard, and you may cry.
I know I did (a lot).