SQLBits, the renowned conference for data professionals, brought together a diverse range of speakers this year, including four from Purple Frog Systems: myself, Lewis, Hollie, and Alex. Each of us tackled a variety of sessions, contributing our unique perspectives to the event. I spoke on two topics, both in the non-technical category about blogging and why it’s important to be creative in technical roles.

First-time speaker nerves…

Annabel Hemingbrough at SQLBits 2024 giving a Non-Technical Talk about Blogs

As a first-time speaker, I embarked on this journey with a mixture of excitement and nervousness. One of my initial challenges was finding the right balance in my delivery—speaking clearly and at a pace that accommodated everyone while also staying within the allotted time. It’s a skill that I continue to refine with each presentation and quite frankly really struggled with. When I get nervous I tend to ramble, which only gets faster and faster the more I go on (Oops…). Luckily I had practiced with great advice in mind ‘Speak like you’re talking to your nan’, which worked until I saw the 5 minutes left sign and I took off again. Something to work on!

Practice certainly helped ease my nerves. I rehearsed my talk with colleagues and family beforehand, seeking feedback and fine-tuning my delivery. I also received invaluable advice from fellow speakers, who generously shared their tips and tricks. One particularly useful suggestion was adding a slide for the audience to read if I needed a breather—a simple yet effective technique that helped me a bunch. The SQLBits committee was awesome at providing a Quiet Zone and Speaker Room where I could go and practice on the day too, which helped with last-minute jitters.

The helpers in the room told me the usual procedure when I said this was a one-of-a-kind experience for me, along with the AV team who helped me get microphoned up with ease. And yes, I arrived 30 minutes early to my session because I didn’t want to be late…

Slidedeck

SQLBits Non Technical Talk - Blogs

Designing my slides was an enjoyable process, albeit with its own lessons. Opting for bright colors to reflect my personality seemed like a great idea, but I quickly learned that contrast is key for readability. Note to self: stick to black and white for clearer visuals next time as the projectors did not do me any favours. I think it’s super important to get your personality and brand across in your slides as it shows people what to expect from the session right from the get-go. Professional slides = professional content.

Feedback

Annabel Hemingbrough at SQLBits 2024 giving a Non-Technical Talk about Blogs

Looking back on the awesome feedback provided by SQLBits, it showed me areas I can improve (slide contrast and talking speed) for next time while allowing me to read the lovely comments left too. Despite receiving lots of positive reinforcement, imposter syndrome crept in, making me doubt the success of my sessions. Even with the reassurances from attendees and peers, I found myself questioning my abilities and the quality of my presentations. It’s a common feeling among newcomers and one that I’m learning to navigate with each speaking opportunity. But you just have to trust it went well and take on board lessons for next time with a positive attitude!

Speaker Lounge

The speaker lounge provided a welcoming space to connect with others who shared similar experiences. It was reassuring to interact with individuals who understood the excitement and apprehension of stepping onto the stage. It was a reassuring feeling to know even some of the most experienced speakers have that mix of nerves and excitement too.

Annabel Hemingbrough at SQLBits 2024 giving a Community Keynote Talk

Despite my best efforts, there’s always room for improvement. I’m grateful to everyone who offered constructive criticism and support along the way. Your feedback fuels my determination to grow and refine my skills as a presenter. In retrospect, my journey as a speaker at SQLBits was filled with valuable lessons, memorable experiences, and opportunities for growth. I look forward to applying what I’ve learned and continue to share my insights with the data community.

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