About 8 months ago, I got a mail from Zach which has fundamentally changed me as a person this past week.

That email was asking me if I would like to be a speaker at HybridConf and after several back and forth mails where Zach did his level best to reassure me that despite me having absolutely zero public speaking experience, he wanted me to talk and valued whatever I might be able to bring to the conference.

Now one of the most nerve wracking experiences of my life is over and I’m digesting what was a truly wonderful conference experience I’m so pleased to have been a small part of it all and I can’t wait to go back to HybridConf 2014.

Hybrid Conf 2014 is in Sweden.

Check out HybridConf.net for more details and more amazing speakers and activities. Going to Sweden is also not as expensive as you might think!

I guess this will end up being a long post because for me the conference started earlier in the year and I had all the nerves and worry about doing a talk, then come the day before there was the speaker dinner and meeting some truly amazing people, then a nervy first talk followed by the weight of the world being lifted the second people were kind enough to clap when I was done and finally a great bowling social after day one and an after party to wrap up.

Becoming a conference speaker

My first talk

Pic courtesy of @MynameisPJ

So that’s me, stood in front of my slides on a giant cinema screen and nobody told me weren’t even fullscreen! But I did it.

Nervously and in no way as accomplished as my fellow speakers but for me this was something I had to do. Despite the feelings of a lack of practice and preparation I did know what I was talking about because talking about our little knife business means a lot to me.

In the end, the 20 minute slot flew by and I clicked through to the “Thanks for listening” slide and the folks in the audience were kind enough to give me a round of applause! No tumbleweed or deathly silence thank god.

When I’d first accepted the invite to speak, I’d done so partly because Zach and Laura were obviously working hard to try and get something different together with Hybrid but also because they were so damn supportive and positive despite all my nervous protestations.

I had the best intentions of getting my talk sorted quickly then spend the months leading up to the conference practicing at a couple of small events but it wasn’t to be and my first effort at a talk was to 9 students. This was quite a step up to around 150-180 fellow professionals and while my performance won’t win any awards, I covered the key points I hoped to and speaking to so many kind people during the day and at the after parties, I think a number of people did at least take a few things away from it which is great news.

My fellow speakers

When I turned up to the speaker dinner the night before the conference, I didn’t really know what to expect because it was such a varied group of developers, designers and web people but it was a career highlight to be able to sit down and share dinner with one of my design inspirations from all the way back to when I started design, Cameron Moll. To add to that, our table of Bryan Veloso from GitHub and his lovely wife Jen, along with Dan Donald and Andrew Nesbitt who not only headed up the conference volunteers, he gave an amazing talk/demo of Nodecopter piloting that blows the mind.

I didn’t even get to meet all my fellow speakers, but those who I did I can honestly say are some truly wonderful folks. Supportive, friendly and without exception here to support the conference and make new friends. Thank you all for being so friendly to me – a special mention should go to PJ McCormick who was also a first time speaker. You really wouldn’t have been able to tell. I can’t wait for all the videos to be released.

The conference

I’m learning to enjoy conferences, I’m a nervous person around people and not naturally sociable but the vibe of Hybrid was different to other conferences. There didn’t seem to be any groups or cliques and for me particularly it was actually really amazing that so many people actually made the effort to come say hello to me and talk to me about all sorts of stuff.

There are a few reviews online already and I know a few of those who didn’t make it were probably feeling the same as me when I missed all the twitter love for New Adventures.

I’m not going to review all the talks, all I’ll do is say that I took something from each and every one and the mix of developer and design focus that is Hybrid was spot on. The attendees were split around 50/50 so spot on. If you’d like to check out some notes then take a look at Frank West’s blog.

The whole event was just friendly. Friendly speakers, friendly attendees and a really chilled out atmosphere.

I think James (he’s a very nice chap too) nailed the overall feel of the conference which despite heading towards 200 people and 2 days of talks felt very intimate. I’ve enjoyed reading things like Scott Riley’s Thank You Hybrid Conf which show the strength of some of the bonds and the great time we all hopefully had.

A special mention has to go out to Cameron Moll’s closing keynote talk – A more personal and inspiring talk you’ll not find. Full of his own life experiences and stories he’s gathered over the years. Again, when the videos are released, you’ll get the chance to watch it with a tear in the eye like the rest of us. Truly something special.

I’m a changed man

I’ve spoken at a conference but I’ve got so much more from my couple of days in Cardiff. My confidence has been boosted by Zach & Laura’s trust in me to deliver something of interest to people who are paying hundreds of pounds for their tickets and to my fellow speakers and friends who were supportive before and kind enough to compliment me after – you’ve all helped me do something I’d never have thought possible.

Before the conference I had an idea for another talk that I wanted to do if this one went ok and I’m pleased to say it’s something I’m just confirming with two events in October now so stay tuned for more of me now I’ve broken my duck. There are so many lessons and tips I’ve taken away that I want to try out.

Thank you everyone

I met more people than I’ve ever done at an event and had many great discussions over beers and enjoyed every minute. I’ll be buying my ticket for HybridConf 2014 when they’re on sale that’s for sure.

Zach and Laura may have just broken even running the event but they’ve made everyone who attended richer.

James Young

Written by James Young

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