I’ve never been someone to only have one job. As a consultant to the federal government right out of high school, the idea of having “all my eggs in one basket” seemed like too risky a move when my work could dry up at any time. I’ve had side contracts doing other development work, I’ve done computer repair and training. I’ve been a sound and lighting technician in theatre, a karaoke host and a DJ to name a few.
This past New Year’s Eve, I got away from the 0s and 1s of computers, and behind the “1s and 2s”, DJing into 2019. As I was preparing for the event, and driving there, the thought crossed my mind that there were similiarties to the way I was feeling about that gig to the way I feel before giving a talk at a conference.
The Lead-Up Anxiety
This was the first party I’d done in quite a long time – and even longer if you considered the last time I’d played a New Year’s party. I found myself spending longer than usual refreshing myself on what I wanted to play, organizing playlists, etc. A fellow DJ and I also spent time chatting about the gig and how it might go.
It felt very similiar to the nervousness I feel before going on stage at a conference. Especially the day of the talk, where it can affect my appetite, or my desire to attend other talks, network, ec. It can be a bit of an all consuming thing until I hit the stage. This is especially true when it’s a subject I’ve never presented before. I’ll spend more time revising my slides, rehearsing the talk in my hotel room, etc.
A little bit of ad libbing
As much as I can plan potential playlists, and know some of the songs that will be popular at a party, there’s a large part of it that I won’t be able to plan for until I’m in the room. Reading the crowd is what separates a good DJ from Spotify. The crowd at this party ended up being older than I’d planned on, so I had to adjust on the fly to what would make them get up and party like it was 1999.
When I’m presenting at a conference, or teaching a class, there’s a certain amount of “winging it” as well. I don’t have a 35 minute talk memorized. I have my slides with the talking points, but the words that come out of my mouth will change every time I give the talk. Part of this depends on who’s in the audience. The ability to change what you say to suit the audience is a huge bonus.
The First Five Minutes
Playing the first song or two when I open up the dance floor is always a little nerve-wracking. Will everyone
If I’m teaching or speaking at an event, those first few minutes can be a little nerve-wracking too. As I’m introducing myself and the day’s topic, staring out at a crowd who’s spending their time and money to listen to me, the butterflies are doing their thing in my stomach. Will they find this interesting? Do they know more than I do? Will the live demo work? Is my fly down? But, just like DJing, once I get into the topic, the nerves fade away, and I get into my groove.
When It’s Over
Playing the last few songs of the night, when I’m not thinking ahead to what I’ll play next is a graet feeling. Watching the partygoers enjoy the last few minutes of the night, and the stress is gone. As I pack up my equipment, maybe a few people will come up and thank me for a great party (Hopefully one of those is the event organizer). On the drive home, dress shoes replaced with running shoes, I put on a playlist that is unlike any of the music I played at the party (usually some good Blues music) and enjoy the feeling of a job well done.
When wrapping up a talk or a class, that final “Thank you” slide appearing on screen, I feel a similiar feeling. At that point, if I’ve been reading the crowd right, I know whether they’ve enjoyed the talk, and learned something new. Th Q&A session, if there is one, is a chance for that immediate feedback. As I pack up my computer, and leave the stage to the next speaker, there’s always a few people two will come up and privately ask a few questions. Instad of driving home, it’s off to a corner somewhere, or my hotel room, to post the slides and follow-up blog post, and reply to any mentions on social media. This is a nice way to decompress before the rest of the day is filled with more networking.
So what’s the point?
Whenever I’m asked if I get nervious before a talk, I’ll readily admit that yes I do. I say being nervous is a sign that I care about providing value to the audience. The thought crossed my mind on the way to that New Year’s Eve event that the same held true when I DJ. I cared that everyone had a great time.
So what’s the point of this post? Maybe nothing more than an observation I felt was interesting. Maybe it’s encouragement for you, dear reader, to get out there and do something that interests you.