Speaking At My First Meetup Felt Like A Roller Coaster Ride

A few weeks ago I spoke at the NoVa.JS Meetup on the topic “From jQuery to AngularJS: A Beginner’s Guide”. It was my first time speaking at a Meetup or speaking on a technical subject. My co-worker, Khuram, connected with Andrew from Modus Create, who was the Meetup organizer and host, who sent out a request for speakers. Khuram suggested I give a talk. At first I was like I am nowhere near the level of speaking on tech, but later I thought it’s a Meetup not a major conference. I also thought to myself if I pick a really simple basic topic no one would show up, so it would be a good starting point for speaking.

I decided to talk about moving from jQuery to AngularJS. My reasoning was everyone by now should be already using AngularJS (or one of the many front end JavaScript frameworks). I assumed no one really used jQuery anymore, so only fifteen to twenty people would show up. That would be a great audience size for my first time speaking at a Meetup.

 

I did an extremely poor job in preparing. It was last minute (the night before) and the morning of. I decided to go with four basic examples but ended up only doing two examples. One was a simple show/hide example and the other was interacting with JSON with AJAX calls. You can see code examples here on GitHub.

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The talk was scheduled to start at 7:00 PM but the doors opened at 6:30 PM. I decided to show up at 6:30 PM so I could be there early and setup. When I walked into the room it was already half full. At that moment I began to panic. It felt like middle school and it was my turn to speak in front of the entire class. I was scared. Very scared. I looked around and saw many different faces. Many of whom looked like very senior developers, managers, and even C-level execs of large companies. The room as at the Microsoft Reston office so I was even more worried that there were some important people from Microsoft in here.

 

I met Mostafa from Microsoft who set up my computer and microphone to make sure everything was working. I met Andrew who told me how it was going to happen. Mostafa would start and then Andrew would speak next to introduce me. Then I would have the one full hour to speak. From 6:30 to 7:00 the room began to fill and soon there were no seats. There were probably around 80+ people. I chatted with Mostafa and Andrew on how surprised I was so many people came. They were also surprised, but they were happy that so many people came. They were happy and I was freaking out.

 

At around 6:59 PM I was standing in the front waiting for Mostafa and Andrew to finish talking. This was my peak fear moment. It was literally do or die. I had only two choices. I could collapse and deliver the worst Meetup talk in history or suck it up and just pretend no one is in the room and just go through my presentation. At 7:00 PM I asked myself why I was scared. Whether or not people like your talk will not affect your health, your family, your friends, your job or anything else in your life. Eight o’clock will come no matter what and you will leave and go home. Just do it. (Nike: If you use this for a commercial, please give me credit!)

 

I began my talk and 8:00 came by pretty fast. I was going through the slides, talking very calmly. People had questions and I tried to answer them. They loved my Star Wars references in the examples. They laughed. They paid attention. They even cheered when I showed them how much less JavaScript you write with AngularJS vs. jQuery. It was awesome. By 7:50 I felt amazing. I was very confident and I even told my co-workers they should talk at Meetups as well. I had successfully given my talk and people appreciated it. After it was done several individuals came up to me with questions and just to connect.

 

One of the most important lessons I learned from this meetup was do not assume or judge the industry based on the hype. What do I mean by this? I specifically picked this topic thinking that most of the industry and developers would be already using modern JavaScript frameworks but this meetup proved to me there were a lot of people still using jQuery and wanted to learn AngularJS.

 

Another lesson learned is people love beginner talks and examples. My examples were extremely basic but it was successful in getting my point across of how awesome AngularJS is. The audience appreciated this because everyone in the room could understand it. The more experienced developers may not have found it interesting but they easily understood the point.

 

Lastly, tech meetup groups like NoVa.JS aren’t just for tech people but business owners, individuals who learn to program as a hobby, stay at home parents, individuals looking for a career switch and many others (of course recruiters as well). There was a wide array of people I met there and not every one of them was a developer.

 

In the end it was a successful first time speaking engagement. I definitely plan on doing this again and sharing whatever I have learned with others.

Amir Sahib