How it went, in bullet points:
- I survived the Caltrain
- My talk went all right
- There was a polite amount of drinking
- The talk got covered in Gamasutra (holy shit!)
As conferences go, the IGDA Leadership Forum was new and strange for me. It wasn’t one big party like GDC Austin; people were friendly enough and talking to each other, but it was very professional, exchanging handshakes instead of hugs. I wore a blazer (LOL!) and tried very hard to network in this polite and serious environment, but I felt out of place sometimes. Add the fact that it was my first time to be a speaker, plus my first time to attend a conference with my boss, and I had plenty of reasons to be nervous!
I found out on the day of my talk that I would be speaking in the big ballroom – ZOMG! Lucky for me and my two co-panelists (Jeremy Mayes from Arkadium Games and Brian Robbins from Riptide Games), we had the most amazing tech support – the amazing Don Daglow. When Jeremy and I told him we’d never spoken before, he pulled us aside and gave us a short pep talk that was subdued but effective. “We are very selective about our speakers,” he said simply. “You are here because people want to listen to what you have to say. You will be fine.”
My talk did go fine, but I learned a few things very quickly. First, rehearsing is useful – I knew without a doubt that my talk would run 20 minutes long and what the general flow would be. Second, it’s never perfect; I said things I didn’t mean to say and forgot the things I thought I’d remember. And third, speaker podiums are made for tall people. I looked like a talking head!
I learned the fourth lesson a few days afterward, when Gamasutra surprised me with a full feature on my talk. If you’ve met me, you know that I tend to speak casually, following a slightly wandering stream of consciousness – and since the article quoted me verbatim, I found out this style does not quote well 😉
The conference itself was very good; I had a few favorite talks, such as Chris Satchell‘s keynote on leadership and Chris Hecker’s keynote that asks _why_ instead of how we are making games. David Edery’s talk on company culture was also fascinating. Since I don’t think about the production side of my job much, I realized with horror that I probably wasn’t paying enough attention to my design trainee or spending enough time fine-tuning our production pipeline. I also thoroughly enjoyed our panel on small games; Jeremy’s and Brian’s talks were the most useful to me, because most of the other talks were focused on big teams with big projects.
I came home from the conference feeling all right – I can scratch “speaking at an international conference” off my bucket list, and am now slightly braver. (The Caltrain helped – have you TRIED standing beside the tracks with a bullet train zooming past you? It is a big WHOOSH of fear. Jesus.) Seriously though, speaking wasn’t about any kind of fame (yuck), but about taking chances and going for things that terrify me. Which is what this trip is all about. And as for wondering if I did good or not, my boss told me afterwards that three separate people came up to him and told him, “You must be very proud of her”. That’s really all the reassurance I need.