It’s no massive secret that the thought of speaking in public is about as scary a prospect as I can imagine but I know the sense of satisfaction and achievement afterwards are a pretty big motivator to get on that stage and give it a go.

After chatting with Rick & Jonic a few months back about speaking at a York meetup, we somehow ended up getting onto talking about Dot_York, a conference in scenic York that they were planning and after a few mails back and forth they felt that the experiences I’ve had running Cutting Edge Knives would be of interest to the audience and theme they were aiming for and I agreed to sign up for what was only my second talk in front of a big audience after speaking at Hybrid Conference last summer.

I was pretty gutted a short notice change of plans meant I couldn’t head up the night before as planned to meet up with fellow speakers Ashley Baxter, Stuart Goulden, Craig Lockwood, Rachel Shillcock, Harry Roberts and Laura Kalbag as I’d not met a few of them and with pre-talk nerves on the morning I may have been a little pre-occupied but luckily my request to speak first meant I could speak then chill and enjoy the rest of the day.

My talk – The things you learn when you’re the client

When I did this talk at Hybrid, I was a bag of nerves, and I’ve never felt so unprepared to do anything in my life and while I got some nice feedback and spoke to a lot of people afterwards who took things from it I was never happy with how it all went when I reflected on it so this time I wanted to try and do a little better and so I spent more time practicing (that’s going to be another post later) and refining the slides and narrative a little more so I hope that my performance among so many other great speakers wasn’t too bad!

From some of the tweets and speaking to people it certainly felt like our experiences running Cutting Edge Knives hit a spot with a fair few folks and I hope that people took something from our experiences that they can use in their own work or businesses.

A cinema is actually a great venue!

The other talks

One of the reasons I asked to speak first was to enable me to enjoy the rest of the day rather than sit there in a blank faced nervous mess so it was great hearing Ashley’s very personal story about how she’s dealing with her business not quite taking the direction she had hoped for and how she’s finally opening up to the possibility that she needs to refocus on other areas (and is launching a service called Insurance by Jack btw). I have to say after I saw her speaking so candidly at Industry Conference last year and with a presenting style I really wanted to do my talk in. She’s a natural story teller and I actually tried hard for a few weeks to redo my own talk in a similar style with few slides and more narrative but I just couldn’t make it work that well.

I have to say I enjoyed the theme running through the conference that made it a little more personal story based rather than process or techniques, I enjoy reading people’s blogs and seeing them share personal stories and seeing how differently everyone approaches a problem or challenge. I honestly enjoyed all the talks and hand on heart can say I took something from each and every one.

It was easy to relate to Rachel’s issues with fear in all it’s guises and her very scientific approach to tackling it in work and personal life gave me some useful knowledge to apply – knowing a little more about the actual physiological triggers and effects makes it that little bit to deal with. If you get a chance, take a look through her slides – My Journey Through Fear.

From small seeds

Both Craig and Stuart really look like they’re always tinkering or working on something interesting that is driven by their passion for solving problems and it just gave me a little nudge to remind us how often we all find little annoyances day to day that we just put up with or don’t do enough to fix or explore. Hearing about the origins of Craig’s FoundersHub and Stuart’s new TV Channel just shows how far a small seed of an idea can be grown if you truly want it to.

Career progress

I don’t have a traditional background as a designer, I came to the profession late. Not having studied art or design originally (I have an Economics degree instead) I never knew what I wanted to be when I grew up – at 37 I still don’t .. it’s why we mess around with giant tuna knives in the office .. but listening to both Harry and Laura speaking about their careers and paths to where they are right now was fascinating. Both are working in an environment that is changing so fast these days and it’s tricky to do justice to the talks in a line or two because while they differ in what they both do, there were similarities throughout and it’s great seeing people achieving big in their careers.

More detailed notes from all the talks are here if you want to catch up.

The conference

Thanks again to Rick and Jonic for their confidence in me, and thanks to my fellow speakers for their kind words of support before and after too and to everyone I was lucky enough to meet during the day, and hear suggestions and thoughts about what we do and could try in the future. It’s uplifting to know what we are trying to do with our business gives others a little nudge to perhaps follow their ideas through a bit more.

As a rookie speaker I see some pretty poor stories about how some conferences are organised and I do need a lot of hand holding while I get the hang of it all and it was all there. I’ve been lucky at both Hybrid and now Dot York to speak at two first time conferences organised by people doing it for the first time and have been treated wonderfully at both in terms of support and I’ve enjoyed seeing some of the effort that goes into putting on an event of this size. Dot York I believe will be back next year and it would be good for York which has a bit of a disjointed creative scene to have something going on like this and at £75 a ticket it’s cheaper than a normal cinema ticket …

James Young

Written by James Young

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