“You’re a panelist for 2018 CodeTalk Series” – about the struggles of giving a live presentation in a foreign language

 

It was a strange moment when Jacek, co-author and maintainer of utPLSQL, asked me last November if I’d like to be part of the next ODTUG CodeTalk series about PL/SQL testing. Not only that I immediately got hit by a strong impostor drive-by and felt way too low-skilled and inexperienced, the host would be Steven Feuerstein, Mr. PL/SQL himself and to that day an unreachable, a bit unreal celebrity for me.

Nonetheless I immediately agreed and tried to behave and communicate as professional and skillful as possible so I wouldn’t embarrass myself in front of the other, highly skilled and seasoned panelists of the talk.

While a good portion of tension and anxiety never faded completely I was very eager and motivated. It was also a great benefit to have Jacek continually encouraging me. Together with him and Pavel I developed a narrative and overall-theme for the talk, prepared a dedicated Star Wars demo-project which could be used for all the different parts of the CodeTalk and also did some slides.
It was fun and I got somewhat confident. I had that picture of myself in mind where I casually type code and explain in an entertaining and understandable way what I’m doing and why it’s important, switching to the prepared slides at some crucial situations. I had already done presentations in the past about technical topics in German which I think were good or at least okay. I knew what I wanted to present, built all the examples myself and therefore felt well-prepared.

We had the first meeting of all participants roughly a week before the event. I suggested to do a dry-run of my part and was encouraged to do so, while Steven would check how much time I’d need.

It was a disaster.

I couldn’t articulate one straight sentence, I mistyped the most basic statements, was constantly stammering and forgot lots of what I wanted to say, replacing it with meaningless jabbering or silence while trying to type.
To make things worse Steven told me that I just used 15 minutes when I had fought myself through about a third of what I wanted to show. I had previously estimated that my part would only take 10 minutes.

I guess it would have been much worse if the Steven, Jacek, Pavel and Stefan wouldn’t have been as kind, positive and encouraging as they were. I got lots of good advice, nonetheless I felt like I’d make them look ridiculous and they knew it.
At that point I knew very well that I had to change my approach completely.

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