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    The audience loved my talk but I didn't

    You know that line from 8 Mile about weak arms and spaghetti, right?

    His palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy There's vomit on his sweater already, mom's spaghetti He's nervous, but on the surface he looks calm and ready To drop bombs, but he keeps on forgettin' What he wrote down, the whole crowd goes so loud

    That's what it felt like walking on stage at React Summit 2022. It wasn't the opportunity of a lifetime, I don't believe in those, but the room was big and the people were many.

    That room was packed. No empty seats. And I realized the night before that I was the first speaker. The only speaker all day that didn't have a parallel track going.

    My heart rate walking on stage was 124. I checked.

    Performing for an audience starts with a rush of adrenaline, settles into a flow, and by the end you're so relaxed you could take a nap. Giving talks is easy after all โ€“ย you just go up there and bleed.

    Those are the best talks. When you have something to say.

    The audience loved it

    The premise of my talk was that You Do Have Time to Build it Twice. Growing companies have an expanding time horizon where you will have time to rewrite your code later.

    Because you can leverage your poor solution into better understanding, more resources, and a bigger team. Then you get to build it right.

    The audience loved that.

    Several people came up later and said they felt seen by my talk. Identified with everything I said.

    People felt validated in their choices and were happy to hear they aren't the only ones going through this. They liked the part where I said you can pull this off and the rewrite pays for itself and more.

    David even made these fantastic sketchy notes ๐Ÿ˜

    The points people got

    The best you can do in a talk is share one insight that people remember. And 2 supporting points that stick in your brain.

    That part worked.

    Everyone loved my Writing Software is like Kicking a Can. Evocative, shareable, quick to grok. The stuff thinkfluencer careers are made of.

    I think it wasn't my best talk

    Truth is I'm not happy with this talk.

    The hook wasn't great. How you start a talk (or email, or book, or anything) is crucial. You have to draw the audience in. Spark their curiosity and engage the brain.

    My hook was that "If you don't have time to build it right, when will you have time to build it twice?" quote. I changed it 20 minutes before the talk from the hook being this tweet:

    And then I dropped that tweet's slide from the talk because the whole talk felt too me-focused. Kinda like this post.

    You should write You Focused Emails. And talks. And books. And everything.

    Nobody cares about Swizec's story. You care about your story. My story only matters in so much as it creates an example for you to learn from.

    Dropping that tweet from my talk created a lack of context that I didn't replace. Lots of people were confused about how jQuery and React and Swizec interact in the story.

    You can tell what's confusing by the questions people ask later.

    All day I was answering variations of these questions:

    • why jQuery tho
    • how did React increase velocity
    • what else on top of React did you do
    • are there approaches to rewrites that don't work

    And the kicker is that I can talk your ear off for days about all of those. But they should've been slides in my talk. There was time.

    With a little refactoring this can be a great talk. Next time!

    People remember how you made them feel, not what you said

    Make them feel good my friend.


    PS: did you know nerves and excitement feel the same in your body? High heart rate, sweaty palms, mom's spaghetti. The difference is how you interpret the situation.

    PPS: you can watch the talk here

    Published on June 24th, 2022 in Learnings, Life, Conferences, Talks

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    Who am I and who do I help? I'm Swizec Teller and I turn coders into engineers with "Raw and honest from the heart!" writing. No bullshit. Real insights into the career and skills of a modern software engineer.

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