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JournalNotes & Thoughts

Stepping out of your comfort zone

Matt Hamm

I’ve finally done it! I’ve spoken at a conference and it’s actually been very liberating.

It all started quite a few months ago. I went to one of the Web Meet Guildford events hosted by my previous employer Kyan. I was chatting with Laurent Maguire and he explained to me that Kyan were thinking about hosting a web conference in Guildford called Web Expo Guildford. He suggested that I should speak. I’d drank a couple of pints of Hogs Back Brewery Ale by then and my inner-self spoke to me:

“Say Yes. Step out of your comfort zone.”

So I agreed. Not really realising quite what I had agreed to. A couple of days later I got an email from Kyan’s Paul Banwell, confirming my inclusion. When I realised the venue was going to be the posh newly built G Live center and not some ropey old pub, my heart started to race. I had started to take the road towards conference speaking and in my mind there was no turning back.

I decided to talk about something I was very comfortable with. Illustration in User Interface. I’ve spoken in public a few times before, at friends weddings and family funerals etc., but this was something else. I share an office with Jon Hicks who has quite a bit of speaking experience, so I was glad to have him on hand to offer me a few tips. I hate writing scripts and hate reading from them, especially when nervous in public. So I decided to ‘wing it’ and just talk from the top of my head using the slides to define my structure and give myself prompts.

I used Keynote app for the first time to put my slides together and actually really enjoyed using it. I started writing notes or ideas that came to mind using IA Writer. Both apps syncing nicely with iCloud. I hunted around for lost sketches and old visuals and put together a concise personal workflow. I didn’t rehearse the talk and I had no idea how long it would be. 15 or 45 mins was a rough guess.

The day of the conference arrived and I was quite excited rather then nervous and as I started to talk I did start to feel nervous, but those nerves soon went. I was conscious that I was going to over-run about half way through, so I sped up a little in the second half which wasn’t great. After I had finished I felt relieved that it had gone okay, but that I could have sounded more assertive, louder and perhaps focused a little more on a smaller concept or idea. I had lots of really good positive comments afterwards, which was really encouraging and perhaps, maybe I’ll do it again.

You can view my slides at and all the talks were filmed, so they will pop up online somewhere soon.

Achievement UNLOCKED!

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