I’ve had several conversations in the past few weeks, where people are surprised to find out that I’ve haven’t been doing conference talks for that long. For some reason, most of them assumed that I’d been doing these talks for years and years, and that I’m a massively ‘experienced’ conference speaker. Spoiler alert: I’m not.

It’s only midway 2014 when I told myself I’d try to do a year of not saying ‘no’ to things that scared me, that I started putting myself forward as a conference speaker and started submitting talks to CFPs. That conference “season” I ended up doing Electromagnetic Field, DDD East Anglia, Hackference and Future of Web Apps; those were my first proper conference talks. It’s not that I hadn’t given presentations before that (I had done a handful of lightning talks the year before), but this was the first year that I was speaking at events where people actually paid to attend and see me (among others) speak.


I realized that even though I hadn’t been doing conference talks before that, I’ve managed to do a ton of different things in the past years to slowly build the skills I now rely on. Public speaking is a BIG SCARY THING (for me it was at least) and if you had told me 10 years ago that I would be doing it on a regular basis and actually enjoy it, I would have called you crazy. So I thought I’d share my experiences about how I got to where I am today. This isn’t going to be a post with clear actions on what to do to become better at public speaking (there’s enough of those out there), rather it’s a collection of thoughts, memories and stuff from me about it all.

To make a cheesy analogy (cause all good posts need a cheesy analogy): giving a conference talk is like jumping off a diving board doing back flips into the pool. Sure, some people might have the guts to just jump off the board and see what happens. Others might do it and be immediately awesome at it. Me though? I had to learn the basics like how to swim not drown and how to dive. Plus I needed to psych myself up to climb that ladder and get on the board in the first place.

The Backstory

I hated public speaking. I knew that I couldn’t get away from giving presentations, but for years I always dreaded having to do them. I don’t remember the number of presentations I had to give at high school and university, but I do remember never liking them and only giving them when given no choice. Whenever we worked in groups, I was completely happy with letting someone else stand in the spotlight and talk about our work.

Everything about talks terrified me: having to speak in front of strangers, having to speak in front of a lot of people, coming up with what you are going to say, making sure what you say is sensible and delivering what you want to say in the best possible way. There are so many aspects to giving a good talk and all of them felt terrifying to me. I was the type of person that already felt uncomfortable with speaking to a random shop assistant when doing groceries, so giving a talk? Yeah. Not. My. Thing.

Attending meetups – how to talk to strangers

In 2007 Cristiano and I moved to London. We didn’t know that many people here, so we started going to meetups, conferences and other tech events. I still remember when I went to my first GirlGeekDinner and being so so awkward at it: standing in the corner, having no idea who to talk to and doubting whether anyone would even want to talk to me.

I’m a massive introvert, so networking, meeting new people, talking to strangers: it doesn’t come naturally to me at all. The more you do it though, the easier it gets. Even now I notice that when I haven’t done a meetup with new people for a few weeks, I need to get back into the right how-to-network mindset, like it’s a muscle I haven’t flexed for a while. Similarly if I’ve done too many events in too short a time, I’ll reach a certain point where I just don’t have the energy anymore to be social and deal with new people. And that’s okay. But you need to build it up, keep at it, and figure out what your own limits are.

BarCamp – you don’t need to be an expert

In that same year I got introduced to the idea of BarCamps, an unconference. Unlike normal conferences, where there are special speakers and a curated schedule announced before the day, with a BarCamp the schedule and sessions are created by all the attendees. Cristiano had been to BarCampLondon2 and we had both gotten tickets to BarCampBrighton later that year. At the time though I didn’t completely understand what a BarCamp was and what it meant I needed to do: only the day before did I realize that I HAD to do a session, which I interpreted as “give a talk” (later on I found out that “doing a session” could also be things like running a discussion or a show-and-tell; it didn’t necessarily have to be a presentation). I couldn’t deal with it: having to give a presentation with less than 24 hours notice? I broke down in tears and refused flat out to do it.

Despite that, the next day I still attended the BarCamp, fully expecting and dreading the disappointment of others when they found out I didn’t want to present. And then I actually went to some sessions… BarCamp is one of the most supportive and useful events that I’ve been to; it’s all about sharing what you know with others, no matter how knowledgeable you are on the subject. BarCamp taught me that everyone has something worth talking about: you don’t need to be an expert to talk about the things that interest you. Besides that, the informality of the event creates a relaxed and fun environment, meaning there’s no pressure to give the “perfect” talk.

From 2007 to 2010 I attended all the BarCamps that I could, attempting to do sessions at all of them. Most weren’t very good or that well prepared (case in point: this video), but despite that I know that people enjoyed them. Plus every single time, I got just that little bit better at speaking in front of people.

That first BarCamp I went to? I ended up making some slides during the overnight and gave a last minute talk on the second day.

Hackdays – how to present in front of a lot of people

The other type of event I started attending around the same time were hackdays (also known as hackathons, although I personally really prefer the term ‘hackday’, but that’s a post for another time). At these you form teams for an entire weekend/24 hours to hack something together. At the end of the 24 hours, everyone gets together to present what they’ve built. And depending on the type of hackday, there are various prizes people can win.


Hackdays are a great place to try out new stuff and learn new skills. Just like with BarCamps, most people are extremely supportive and willing to help you learn. The first couple of hackdays I went to I ended up forming a team with friends and let them do the presenting. But as I went to more of them, I ended up having more ideas and hacks that I was did on my own. There were several early hackdays though where I didn’t end up presenting what I built, mainly cause I didn’t think my hacks were good enough. Why show how little I got done? Eventually though I realized that didn’t matter: you had an idea which you worked on for an entire weekended and you should show what you have done!

Doing these short pitches is one of the things that got me comfortable with speaking in front of lots of people. You typically only have a 1 or 2 minutes to talk through your idea, meaning you learn to focus on getting your point across quickly.

Writing blog posts – how to tell a story

I admit: not every blog post on this blog is of the highest storytelling quality, but doing this blog for the past 8 years has taught me a couple of things. Firstly, the ability to recognize what makes a good blog post. There’s a little voice in the back of my head constantly going “Wouldn’t that work as a post?” or “What would happen if you combine this idea with that one? New blog post!”. With almost everything I come across a part of me is thinking about how to turn it into a story. And the same applies when considering talks. Not every blog post works as a talk, and not every talk works as a post. But being able to identify there’s a story there that’s worth telling is the same in both cases.

The second thing is the ability of actually telling that story. Throughout the years I’ve slowly learnt what I like and look for in blog posts, and how to apply that to my own posts. The key things I’ve found is understanding who your audience is, why they should be reading your post and what are they taking away from it. From there, you can derive the main structure of your post, framing the story in the right way. I could do an entire post on storytelling alone, but being able to write blog posts and tell a good story has been super useful in creating talks.

The Future

I guess what I’m trying to get at with this post is this: right now you might feel like you’re never ever going to want to willingly give a presentation. There might be different reasons and fears keeping you from doing them. Figuring out exactly what fears you have though means that you can come up with smaller and easier ways to get over them. Scared of talking to people you don’t know? Start going to meetups with friends and try to talk to 1 new person. Scared of talking in front of a lot of people? Try to find something lowkey that allows you to talk in front of a big group.

We need more diverse speakers in our industry. But that also means we need more people and more events to help create those speakers.

So here’s my slightly belated New Year’s Resolution: I want my 2016 to be all about helping others get into public speaking. To start things off, I’m mentoring next Saturday at ScotlandJS’s Diversity Workshop at the FutureLearn offices. If you have a talk idea and what help developing it, sign up and come along! Even if you don’t have an idea or don’t feel like you’re ready to give a talk yet, feel free to come to the event – doing the workshop doesn’t mean you’re committing to giving a talk.

Besides that I’ll be organizing another BarCampLondon this year with Geeks of London. We don’t have a date, a venue or any sponsors yet, but I know how much BarCamp helped me in the past and I think it’s an event our community needs. I’ll also be organizing more Thunderclouds this year to get more people comfortable with and learning how to do lightning talks.

Finally I’d love to hear from all of you! What are the things that you want help with or have questions about? Feel free to reach out on Twitter, send me an email or reply here in the comments.

Giving a talk can be a big scary thing, but maybe if we all pitch in and help out, we can make it not that big and not that scary.

Tags: Events, Geeky

I can’t quite believe it’s September already! As usual, September means conference season is upon us and the next 2 months are going to be slightly insane for me. Want to see me talk? Here are the upcoming events I’ll be speaking at:

12th September 2015 – State of the Browser: We’re back for another year to talk about browsers and the web. Come and learn about the latest in browser developments and the web industry.​ My talk will be about imposter syndrome and how creating a culture of learning can help deal with it.

25th-26th September 2015 – Over The Air: A tech-agnostic event for and by the developer community, featuring technical workshops where attendees can roll up their sleeves and tinker with new mobile & web platforms, operating systems, APIs & open hardware. I’ll be talking about how and why we organize internal hackdays at FutureLearn.

2nd-4th October 2015 – Hackference 2015: Three days of talks and panels from the best in the world, with a full weekend hackathon to top it. Again I’ll be talking about how and why we run internal hackdays at FutureLearn.

8th-9th October 2015 – WebDevConf: We don’t need The Avengers or the Justice League, WDC2015 has assembled the best line up that is ready to take on the world. I’ll be doing a fun talk called the Marvel Guide to Agile, explaining agile principles through the means of Iron Man to the Guardians of the Galaxy.

Tags: Events, Geeky

The past two months have been insane! I’ve been speaking at and attending various conferences, going to more evening meetups and just generally being very busy. I’ll be trying to do several roundup post to cover the most interesting things I’ve been to the past few weeks!


Last October’s LRUG featured a great talk by Sam Aaron (@samaaron) and and Xavier Riley (@xavriley) about how to live code music with Sonic Pi. It looks like so much fun; I really need to try it out and see if I can actually make some music myself! The entire talk is up on the Skills Matter site, so check it out!

Pokemon TCG Launch Event

Last Tuesday I got invited to the launch of the new expansion of the Pokemon Card Game: XY — Phantom Forces. It’s been ages since I last played TCG, but we got to play two of the new theme decks (Burning Winds and Bolt Twister) with trainers on hand to help out explain some of the rules. It definitely was a fun evening with Gengar themed cocktails and even a Pokéball pizza!


Video Games Live

I love modern orchestral music, be it for movies, TV shows or video games, and I’ve been wanting to go for ages to Video Games Live. I weirdly enough first heard about it 7 years ago in 2007, while queuing outside the Apple store, by the guy in front of me who had just gone to see the concert the previous weekend. I then missed out on tickets the year after, and then had to wait 6 freaking years until they were back in London! I really enjoyed the concert, although I was a bit disappointed that it wasn’t a full orchestra. Still: hearing the Kingdom Hearts, Metal Gear Solid and Journey themes all live was so awesome!

LEGup Meetup

I always find the London Educational Games meetup fascinating. Even though I’m not working on an educational game, FutureLearn is obviously very learning focused and I find it’s interesting to see what we things we might learn from the games industry. This month’s meetup featured Santeri Koivisto of Teacher Gaming, the team that created MinecraftEdu and KerbalEdu. Here are my sketchnotes from the event:

sketchnotes legup

sketchnotes legup2

Ada Lovelace Day Live

I’m still hoping the videos of all the talks of Ada Lovelace Day Live will be available, cause it was such a fun and inspiring evening! The highlights for me were: learning all about bridges from Roma Agrawal, a civil engineer from the team that built the Shard, finding out about how the remains from Richard III were discovered from Dr Turi King and hearing Konnie Huq rap about social media.

Tags: Events, Geeky

Event Report: PrimeConf

July 9th, 2014

A couple of weeks back I attended PrimeConf, a conference celebrating great British technology and technologists. It was such an inspiring event; I don’t think there was any talk there that I didn’t walk away from thinking I didn’t learn something.

All the talks were recorded and are now online on the PrimeConf site. If you have the time, I’d recommend watching them all! If you don’t, here were my favourite talks:

Welcome To The No-man’s Land Of Technical Leadership – Mazz Mosley

The Makies Ongoing Story – Alice Taylor

Be Your Own Client And Be Happy – Pete Duncanson

Tags: Events, Geeky

I thought I’d do a quick post with a couple of awesome events I’ll be attending/speaking at soon. There are still tickets available for all of these events; let me know in the comments if you’re going too!


PrimeConf – Best of British

PrimeConf is a conference on the 13th of June at the Royal Institution, celebrating great British technology and technologists. Taking a countrywide approach they’ve invited guest speakers from around Britain to talk about what they know and what they do. They’ll will also be live streaming the event so everyone who wants to can watch regardless of location. Tickets are still available for £149.


FutureBook Hack

FutureBook Hack invites developers, designers and entrepreneurs to come together for a weekend of brainstorming and problem solving in a previously untapped sector: book publishing. The goal of the event is to bring fresh eyes to an established industry, to tackle the challenges facing book publishing, to adapt to a changing landscape and to help readers discover the perfect book. I’m happy to announce that I’ll be a judge and a mentor at this!


Woman Who Code

Women Who Code is a global nonprofit organization dedicated to inspiring women to excel in technology careers by creating a global, connected community of women in technology. I’ll be speaking at their meetup on July 22nd about DDD: Disney Driven Development. The talk will be about Disney’s Four Keys of the Kingdom and how we can apply those principles to our work as web developers.

Tags: Events, Geeky

Last Saturday I got invited to visit the Beyond El Dorado: power and gold in ancient Colombia exhibition at the British Museum. I’ve always been intrigued by ancient cultures and myths, so obviously I was up for finding out more the legends behind El Dorado. I have to admit, I didn’t really know much about that area beforehand, and had kind of assumed it was related to the Inca empire (which it actually isn’t).


The exhibition features over 300 objects from the collections in the British Museum and Museo del Oreo (literally the “Gold Museum”, located in Bogota, Columbia), showing the technologically advanced gold working craftsmanship of the different cultures of ancient Colombia. It was really interesting discovering more about the creation and the meaning of all those objects. Plus some of the gold metalworking is exquisite! So much detail and precision in such tiny objects; it’s gorgeous to see.

There are still tickets available if you want to see the exhibition yourself, but hurry! This Sunday is the final day of the exhibition.

Disclaimer: tickets to the Beyond El Dorado: power and gold in ancient Colombia were provided by American Airlines.

Tags: Events, Geeky

A few weeks back I gave a 5 minute lightning talk at 300 Seconds about Being A Social Introvert. I already wrote this up as a blog post (which you can read here), but the video of that presentation is now up on YouTube as well:

I always find it feels a bit weird watching yourself back and hearing your own voice. It’s good though to see how the presentation went; from my point of view it felt as if I was speeding way more through it and that doesn’t come across (I think) in the video.

Since that presentation, I’ve given it a second time at HACKED. Both times I had people come up to me afterwards to discuss introverts and telling me about their own experiences. It’s so cool to realize that your presentation made people think about themselves in a way they didn’t necessarily before!

So do you consider yourself a Social Caterpillar?

I started writing this last Friday morning, thinking “Oh, I’ll have enough time later today to finish it properly”… I was wrong. The past 4 days have been crazy, over-the-top, sleep-deprived, yet so so awesome. We’ve run the biggest event we’ve ever done and I’m so happy with how most of it turned out.

The past few weeks have just been slightly mental; I’ve had just so much going on, I’ve barely had any proper free time. So here’s a bit of an update of what’s been keeping me busy.



Obviously: HACKED. I won’t go into too much detail now, cause I want to do a couple of long blog posts about all the things that went into organizing this event. But in general: it was freaking amazing. Yes, there were a couple of issues (*cough* wifi), but despite those problems it seemed most people had an awesome time. Our main goal of the event was the tag line: Learn, Build and Share. And I think most attendees got to do all of that.



If you’ve been following me on Twitter, you’ll know that a couple of months back I started a new job as a developer at Unboxed Consulting. So far I’ve been mainly working on FutureLearn: a massive open online course system backed by the Open University. It’s a fun and exciting project to be on, and I can’t wait to see what people think of it once it gets launched! If you want updates, check out the FutureLearn website and Twitter.


London Triathlon

Yeah, I’ve got 5 days till I’m running a triathlon. Half a year ago Cristiano thought it would be a good idea to do a relay triathlon a week after running the biggest event we’ve ever done. Then it turned out that he needed to travel for work and I naively said I would replace him. HACKED turned out to be awesome, but I never fully realized how little time I would have to train for this…

So: I’m running in the London Triathlon. And I am completely not prepared. Despite that though I’m going to give it my all and attempt to finish the damn thing. We could really do with some support though, so if anyone wants to cheer us on or sponsor us, that would be amazing!

Tags: Events, Geeky

A week ago I presented at 300 Seconds, a new series of lightning talks to encourage more women to speak at events. This post is the blog version of that talk.

I’m quite a busy person.

I’m a developer at Unboxed Consulting, I organize events at Geeks of London and (obviously) I write this blog. What this means though is that I end up attending a ton of events. Hackdays, conferences, PR events, conventions and meetups in all different shapes and sizes. Plus there’s the stuff I’ve got a hand in organizing too, like HACKED and BarcampBerkshire.

At most of those events I am Miss Geeky; my blog is my brand, my identity and my event persona. I’m constantly meeting and interacting with a lot of different people; promoting my blog, pitching my events and talking about my work.

So people are often quite surprised when they hear that I consider myself a massive introvert.

But why?


I realized that most people don’t have a good understanding of what introversion and extraversion is. Typically they think that being an introvert means you’re quiet and shy, while being an extrovert is seen as being social and outgoing. And that’s not exactly right.

For me, introversion and extraversion is all about energy: what recharges you and what drains you? Extroverts find energy in interaction: they recharge by being around people, by interacting with what’s outside themselves. Introverts, on the other hand, will get their energy from reflection: they recharge by looking inwards, by being alone. So this does mean that extroverts will be much more likely to be social and outgoing, and that introverts will be much more likely to be quiet and shy. But that’s not always the case. You can have extroverts that are shy. And you can have introverts that are social and outgoing.

My term for this group of social introverts: social caterpillars.

We’re like social butterflies, jumping from one event to the next, being social and outgoing, only: we have to work a whole lot harder for our moments of butterflyery-ness (that word works so much better when said out loud. And no, Autocorrect, I did not mean “butterfly princess”).

So how do you recognize a social caterpillar in the wild? For now, I’ve come up with 4 characteristics, but this is still a work in progress:


Every caterpillar needs a cocoon. At busy events, we will need a moment to retreat back into ourselves. Depending on the social caterpillar, this can manifest in different ways: a breath of fresh air outside, a long toilet break or even intensely staring at your phone pretending you’ve got something urgent to respond to (while you’re just checking Twitter). It’s all about having a moment completely to yourself, even if you find yourself in the midst of a crowd.



We enjoy interaction, but this doesn’t necessarily have to happen face-to-face. Thanks to social networks, social caterpillars can move the energy draining activities to the online world. Plus it allows us to digest the interaction asynchronously, making connections before or after an event. We’ll also often be the ones live tweeting, photographing or blogging about the event, which as an extra benefit allows us to hide and retreat behind our gadgets.


Caterpillars consume their environment. My interpretation: social caterpillars will analyze their surroundings, using all their senses to their advantage. We’ll research the events we’re going to, figure out beforehand who will be there and what they do and who might be potentially interesting to meet. We’ll observe and listen until we figure out the best way to approach a certain situation.


We will have our moments of being butterflies. We’ll be social and outgoing, meeting and interacting with new people, talking about the things we love, organizing our own events and doing whatever we feel comfortable doing. And pushing ourselves to do things we might not fully feel comfortable with, like giving a presentation at an event and talking for 300 seconds about how you are an introvert…

So, yeah: I’m an introvert. And I’m a social caterpillar.

If you ever see me at an event and I’m running away in the other direction, don’t take it personally. I just need some space and time to become that butterfly.

I’m curious to hear from you now. Would you consider yourself an introvert or extrovert? Or somewhere in between? And all you social caterpillars out there: tell me your stories! What do you do during the events? Let me know on Twitter using the hashtag #SocialCaterpillars or leave a comment below!

Tags: Events, Geeky

Event Report: Playful 2012

October 29th, 2012

Two weekends ago I attended this year’s Playful at Conway Hall. I’ve been attending the Playful events since they started in 2008 and they’ve always been a lot of fun. It’s a one-day conference all about games, play, interaction, behaviour and everything that comes with looking at the world through fun eyes. Each time they bring a cool group of speakers together to talk about games and play from unique perspectives.

I said “I attended” this year, what I actually mean is volunteered. That meant arriving at the venue at 8:30 and helping out with setting various things up. As usual I also headed registration, trying to make it as quick and easy as possible. I’m not really sure why, but I really love doing registration at events. Here we had about 300 people all arriving within the first hour, but I think we dealt with them all quickly and nobody had to queue for too long.

#Playful12 badges!

Because I was volunteering though I didn’t get to see all the talks. I ended up seeing 9 out of the 12, only missing 3 talks, which isn’t too bad a ratio. I should have planned it a bit better though, cause looking back two of those talks seemed to be quite interesting to me (Mark Sorrell’s talk on Computer Games (Not Video Games) and Siobhan Reddy from Media Molecule presentation on Learnings from New Ideas). The other 9 talks were great though too; here are the ones that stood out most to me:

Mint Foundry — Toys With Purpose

The Mint Foundry is Mint Digital’s graduate scheme and this year it had tasked four designers to “Make a toy that has a reason to exist”. They came up with Dough Globe: a sourdough game controller. It’s a hollow ball in which you can “grow” your sourdough and then uses an accelerometer and ethanol level to control a custom built game. The game features Doug, the little guy that lives in your Dough Globe and by playing the games with Doug you can unlock recipes for your sourdough.

Holly Gramazio — Clapping Games

I used to love clapping games as a kid; there were so many different ones that I sort of remember playing. Holly Gramazio from Hide & Seek talked about clapping games, their origin and how we should be playing clapping games more. “They’re Guitar Hero without the technology”. At the end of the presentation she explained the rules of the Danish Clapping game, which I now really want to try out.

Bennett Foddy — Confusion & Frustration in game design

Bennett Foddy is an Oxford University professor and the creator of iOS games QWOP and GIRP. Foddy talked about how games need a certain amount of suffering in them to fully enjoy them. He gave an example of a friend buying an iPhone game and being disappointed in it when he finished it in one go. It’s the suffering in the game that makes failure matter and makes you want to play on and master the game. Games need different dimensions of suffering to be fulfilling: pain, frustration, confusion, humiliation.

I really enjoyed Playful this year and definitely look forward to next year’s one! Did you go to Playful? What was your favourite talk?

Tags: Events, Games