Amelia Bedelia Learns to Rails Conf

Speaking at a Technical Conference? That Sounds Like Fun

This was my first conference talk. I had spoken at a few user groups before which were decidedly smaller audiences. I even only spoke at the Atlanta Ruby User Group just the week before to practice. Until then, I'd been too scared to present in front of a group of what I consider Ruby experts.

I also figured, given I'm a novice speaker and that Rails Conf is fairly large they probably wouldn't even accept my talk. So, what's the risk right?

WRONG. My talk was accepted and now I would definitely be presenting it on a big (to me) stage in front of an audience (not my cat).

So What Does Kylie Do?

I was really nervous about speaking at a conference but I am really passionate about creating a culture of learning, so I did what I could to feel better about presenting.

I reminded myself that this talk was in the beginner track so the expectation was that it would be beneficial to beginners. As a sort of beginner-Ruby developer still I feel comfortable speaking to more beginner groups than advanced.

Why a Storybook? Why Not a Storybook?

I included in my application notes that I'd be presenting this as a storybook and I was worried that it wouldn't go over well. Would adults tolerate being read to like children?

The selection committee picked my proposal, so I had to assume they didn't think it was a terrible idea.


A lot of people (more than the 15 Atlanta developers at the conference) attended my talk, many of them seemed to enjoy it!

One guy laughed at every one of my jokes, and to him I'm eternally grateful (you can see in the video when we decide to be friends).

I was worried that people would just take this talk at its face value, a funny little story to break up the afternoon. I was pleasantly surprised with the reception it received though. The video doesn't include this, but after the talk I asked people to talk about their mistakes. I was doubly surprised when so many of them (and not just beginners) volunteered their errors in front of the whole group. People came up to me after the talk and vowed to talk about their mistakes with their teams.

This Conference Talk Stuff is Fun

Preparing a conference talk was very stressful, but it seems like it has brought a lot of people joy. I think that in itself is worth the stress, so I might try to do another one in the future.

Here are some of the kind things people did in response to my talk:

Ernie Miller has unreasonably high expectations for me:

Pamela Vickers asked in the Q&A section if it was anyone's birthday and got the audience to sing to me:

Justin Searls laughed at my Ruby WAT/Gary Bernhardt joke which I was worried would fall flat:

Justin Burris did a sketchnotes of my talk, I think this is my personal metric for success now:

Walter Latimer showed the video from my talk at Wyncode:

Slides and Video

Here are the slides I used (starting on the first page of the book):

And here is the recorded video from Rails Conf (thanks ConFreaks!):

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