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6 Weeks of Public Speaking

2019 and goals

Earlier this year, looking at Twitter trends, I too posted online about my top 3 goals for 2019 with speaking at meetups/conferences to be my #1 priority. 🥳🎤

Riya's goals for 2019

From March till June, I spoke at many meetups, conferences, and whatnot. 🤯 Lightning talks to workshops. You can find the list here.


However, in May-June, I started realizing that I was no longer interested in speaking. ☹️ Something was missing, and I couldn’t figure out what. Burnout is real and awful. I had a breakdown after my last talk in June, cried for hours. 😭 I called up my Dad and explained to him how I felt because I didn’t do good at my talk. I feel like I didn’t give my 💯 and that that was the worst talk I ever gave. I was having self-doubts if I should continue or not. I called up a few of my friends to know their opinions too.

Riya asking friends for their opinions

Riya asking friends for their opinions

I should fix this..

I decided to take a break for a while to figure out what is going on with me, and if I WANT to continue public speaking or not. Time for Retrospect. One of my friend, Vikram, explained: ”It’s easy to lose motivation if you are giving the same talk over and over again. I know you are passionate about tech X. But you need to modify the content for every single talk. Make minor changes so that you won’t feel like you are repeating yourself.” His words stuck with me, and I spent some time thinking about this.

So let’s plan..

In August, I decided that I want to give public speaking one more try. If I don’t like it this time, if I don’t find my motivation again, I’ll never think about doing this again. I’ll stop public speaking and never look back. 🤞

So to start with, I realized that my favorite events DevFests by GDG communities are coming up in the USA in September! (Fun fact: I’ve been with the GDG communities as an organizer in an on-off relationship since 2014.) I decided to submit Call For Proposals to speak at multiple DevFests. Ended up applying to 5, and 4 of them got selected. Yay! 🥳 (I still can’t believe it to date. The same talk on accessibility, 4 places whaaaaattttt 💫). My success criteria was I need to convince at least 1 person to think about accessibility. ✅

Its execution time, they say..

For the last 6 weeks, I’ve been continuously traveling ✈️, either speaking at 🎤or attending conferences. Below is the breakdown of 6 weeks I’d like to share(excludes internal talks at Quizlet):

1. DevFest Los Angeles, September 13, 2019 Lessons learned: Speak slowly. Do not complete your session in 20 minutes if you are scheduled for 30 min. This, I believe, was an excellent start for me and helped me prepare better for the next ones. 🙂

Riya speaking in Los Angeles

2. DevFest Auburn, September 15, 2019 This was a very unique conference. It was their first time organizing, and the community is brand new. The attendance was mostly students. 👨‍🎓👩‍🎓 I don’t think I ever spoke at a conference, with the majority of the audience being the students. 50%+ had no idea about accessibility, it was more exciting for me to share about #a11y. 😇 Fun fact: I used Quizlet sets to present, instead of regular google slides.

Riya speaking in Auburn

3. DevFest San Francisco, September 21, 2019 Ok, this was a crazy event. 🤓 I never thought of speaking because I was a part of the organizing team. However, 2 of my co-organizers were presenting, which made me think about speaking too. Fun fact: I started having severe back pain from the mid of the event. All of my photos after that have my hands supporting my lower back. 🤦‍♀️

Riya doing the opening talk in San Francisco

Riya speaking in San Francisco

4. DevFest Wisconsin, September 29, 2019 They said it was their first DevFest. Pretty sure they’re lying. 🤨 This conference was GREAT in so many ways. Organizers were fabulous with the communications, parties, supporting local communities, arrangements, and whatnot. I learned from them how to organize events. Pretty sure I’m going to copy their tactics. 😉 I got many good comments regarding my energy level during my talk. In reality, I was on another level, a completely different person. 😬 It’s worth noting that I was not on sugar or coffee or any desserts. It was my passion and my excitement for accessibility (and lessons learned from previous talks). 😎

Riya talking in Wisconsin

Riya's wisconsin talk reviews

5. Attended Grace Hopper Conference, Orlando, Oct 2-5, 2019 I went to Orlando early (September 30) to have fun and work from there. But by this time, my health declined more. Instead of fun, I stayed in the hotel for 48 hours, eat - sleep - work. That’s pretty much what I did. After that, OH MY GHC! Soooo many in tech 🤩 I was seriously awestruck looking at everyone at GHC. I attended some tech sessions - some were great, some not-so-much. Non-tech sessions were RAD! Inspiratonal speakers, motivating quotes everywhere, huge venue! Ran into many friends I haven’t met since long 😅

Quote at ghc

PS: I visited Disney World for Mickey’s Not-So-Spooky Halloween Party! ❤️

Photo from disney

6. Attended North America Women Techmakers Summit Austin, October 13 I LOVE THIS CONFERENCE! 💛Last year at WTM Summit in New York, I learned so many things, and which is why I was particularly excited about this one. Speakers, content, presentation skills, food, venue - everything was BEST. Thank you, Women Techmakers!

Women techmakers banner

7. DevFest DFW, Dallas, October 19, 2019 I totally believe this was the best conference to end my 6 weeks gig. I was a little reluctant to say yes to this one, mainly because I thought 5 weeks were enough. But I loved watching their last DevFest, and speaking here was one of my goals, so I said yes. Also, because Stacy ❤️I was surprised to see large attendance with minimal promotions! Met many who mentioned they are now thinking about accessibility, which made my heart happy 💜 This was more dramatic and interactive of all. 😄

Riya speaking in dallas (Yes, I’m bad at taking selfies)

Final and most important thoughts..

I’m very grateful that I got the opportunity to be able to travel and speak and attend conferences. A million thanks to my team at Quizlet for GHC, for understanding my goals and passion for public speaking. Thanks to my colleagues, who helped review my slides. Special shoutout to my manager for being really very supportive. 😇

Every time I went to a different place, I stepped outside my comfort zone. I belong to a liberal family from a rural - conservative place. Even 20yo Riya would have never imagined that she will travel alone to many places in 5 years. 🙃 Visited University of Texas at Dallas and Auburn University. 🏫

While everything looks super fun, here are some extras..

  • Excessive travel without any breaks. This isn’t easy. I will never recommend that. 🙅‍♀️
  • Health problems - I suffered (and still am suffering) from severe back pain mainly because I’ve not been able to rest appropriately. My schedule is as weird as it could be. Traveling to different timezones also affected my sleeping times.😔 Lost my voice multiple times in between and have sore throat now.
  • Personal life - It’s been 6 weeks I have not been able to talk to friends and family much.
  • I didn’t get enough me time to recharge.🙁

You ask, what’s next?

Am I going to continue public speaking? 🤔 HELL YES! I enjoy this. I LOVE THIS. However, taking health into consideration, I’ve decided a few things for the next few months:

  • Saying 🙅‍♀️ for all the speaking engagements in the USA. I do have some open discussions for talks in other parts of the world for Nov’19-Feb’20, which I’m going to carefully decide after reevaluating my health.
  • Limited presence and support for the monthly meetups I run for the communities I’m associated with.

Ok really final thoughts..

This was my first year of public speaking. I did 20+ talks at meetups, conferences, internally, everywhere!!! And I’m thrilled I did this. 🥳 While in the last 2 months, all of my sessions were on accessibility, I also gave talks on Inclusion & Diversity, Actions on Google Assistant, how my life changed because of communities, public speaking, and few more topics earlier this year. You can find more here.

Tips if you are looking to get into public speaking: Reach out to your local meetups and speak there. Once you’ve enough confidence, apply to slightly bigger events, then conferences. Do as many dry-runs of your talk as possible. Have someone review your slides. These things helped me, and I hope will help you too.

If you are looking for speaking opportunities, or need help with getting into public speaking, or wanna talk anything about public speaking or randomly anything, feel free to reach out to me via twitter @ReeyahSDasoriya 😀