As I’ve been getting into speaking, I’ve been keeping an eye out for interesting podcasts on the topic, and Tanay’s was one of the many good ones I found. Every episode, he interviews someone working in Developer Relations or who speaks or organizes conferences to learn from them and help pass on their knowledge. It’s a lot like the interviews I do here on CFP Land!

So, I’m very excited to bring you Tanay’s speaker story today. His experience moving from casual speaker, to professional Developer Advocate is a great example of how speaking at tech conferences can truly change the course of your career. He was also kind enough to include a link to his first conference talk ever so you can see how far he’s come.

Tell me about yourself. How did you get into public speaking?

I am a Developer Advocate at which means I am working closely with the community of engineers using CrateDB. I am speaking at a lot at conferences, holding webinars, writing tutorials and articles. I got into public speaking after joining a program called Mozilla Tech Speakers. I gave my first talk in 2016 in Russia.

I have been going to conferences for a while now and I have met some truly amazing speakers from whom I have learnt a lot. I thought, why not record our conversations and make them available as a podcast so that a lot more people can benefit from it? This is a side project that is very dear to me on which I am concentrating on these days. It is called Technically True and I chat with inspiring people in the industry to gain insights on topics related to public speaking and developer relations.

What do you like about speaking at conferences?

Initially, one of the strongest incentives was travelling to new places. Over time, the thing I liked the most about this was meeting new developer communities, engaging with them and of course, speaking and sharing what I have been working on.

Speaking at conferences helped me gain more exposure and until the end of 2018, it was something that I did just for fun. Then I realised that I used up almost all of my vacation days for speaking at conferences and that now maybe it is time that I should do this full-time. That is when I decided to quit my job and join this year as a full-time Developer Advocate. It’s been almost a year that speaking has been a part of my daily work and I’m lovin’ it!

What topics do you typically speak about?

These days, I have been speaking a lot about databases, industry 4.0, machine and time-series data. I especially enjoy talking about case-studies related to IoT that we do with our clients. I also speak on WebXR with A-Frame and building multiplayer games with that.

Do you remember your first conference talk? How did it go?

Sure, I remember it like it was yesterday. I was very thrilled about it but got very nervous the day before I had to give the talk. I experienced a cocktail of feelings like impostor syndrome, adrenaline rush and anxiety. Once I started speaking, I realised that I was really enjoying it and all the fear melted away. The talk went well, I had a lot of questions and the feedback was good. I watched the recorded video later on and identified a lot of things that I had to fix like filler words and so on. It’s not easy to watch a video of your talk but trust me, it can be the best way to improve your speaking skills. I even have a video of my first talk on YouTube, it helps me realize how far I have come and how far I still have to go.

“Getting Started With Web Based Virtual Reality” by Tanay Pant (his first conference talk)

How many conferences have you applied to and spoken at?

Applied to? Hundreds! Spoken at? I think it is probably close to twenty-five.

Do you have a pre-talk routine?

One of the things that is the most important for me is putting my Slack, laptop and mobile on do not disturb. I always take off my watch before going on the stage - loose watches can create a distraction for both the speakers and the audience by going up and down the wrist. Smartwatches on the other hand can light up with hand movements. I use an app called HiddenMe for hiding all the icons, files and folders from my Desktop, especially if I have to give a demo and need to exit Powerpoint. I think that it’s important to have a bottle of water on the stage especially for longer talks.

I recently talked about pre-talk rituals with Niels Leenheer and you can hear stories from us about the things we do and why we do them in the episode coming out on December 1.

What advice do you have for new speakers?

Well, there’s SO many things. Let’s go through a speaker’s journey from picking a topic to chatting with the audience at the end of the talk.

First of all, topic selection. It’s most important to choose something really interesting to you, something that you are passionate about. That plays a huge factor in how much confidence and enthusiasm you have when you are up on the stage. If you’d like to know more about CFPs and how conferences select talks, I can highly recommend following Kristina Schneider’s advice on the topic (she organises CSSConfEU).

Once your talk is ready, make sure to practice it well but also beware of over-rehearsing. Practising your talk a couple of times helps you to further tailor your talks and make them leaner. It also helps you with your confidence on stage in case something goes sideways.

If something doesn’t go exactly as you wanted to on the stage or if the demo fails, make a joke about it and move on. Make sure that you have a video that you can show in its place. Don’t let it affect the rest of your talk and your morale. Things go wrong, it’s okay. This happens to everybody.

Make sure you stick around after you talk to answer the questions from the audience and help them in any way you can. Never forget that the audience is the most important group in that room and always be humble. I can go on about this topic for hours, if you have more questions DO reach out to me.

Are there any other speakers you look up to? Anyone who’s inspired you?

One of the talks that have inspired me the most was given by Christian Mio Loclair in Berlin about Narciss back in 2018. Having said that, there are a countless number of people who have inspired me and I usually end up inviting them to my podcast. 😅

Where can readers find more about you?

I am most active on Twitter but I can also be found on LinkedIn. If you’d like to check out the resources that I have created or talks that I have given, you can easily find them on Google or YouTube.

Technology conference speakers come from a wide range of backgrounds, experience levels, and interests. At CFP Land, we highlight different speakers every week in our Speaker’s Story blog posts. If you’re a tech conference speaker, email [email protected] to tell your story. 💌

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