Reflections on Creative Camp

Creative Camp 2012

Last Friday I had the fortune to be speaking at Creative Camp, hosted by the wonderful people at Media Zoo. It was something I was both looking forward to and worrying about in equal measure. I was looking forward to it for the event itself, and for the talks I’d get to enjoy. I was worried about it because I was a part of the event itself, and I always worry when I have to speak.

This was my first time attending (or speaking) at such an event, but the format seemed like a slightly more structured BarCamp, with shorter talks, which fits quite well with my current level of presenting. The theme for the day was serendipity, and we received several great talks on that topic, from the introduction to the day by Ben Bland and Jonny Campbell, who related the tale of how he fooled the world into thinking he’d won an internship with Charlie Sheen.

There were many other speakers that day and, due to the format, I was only able to sit in on half of the talks, as there were two sets of talks running simultaneously. I could tell from the volume of applause that Kitty Crawford’s talk went well. I also had the fortune to listen to Kyle Gawley’s talk. You can read up on his thoughts over on his journal.

Speaking on Simplicity

Speaking on Simplicity

My own talk was on the topic of simplicity, which has become part of a set of principles I have identified that are key in the work that I do, a topic which I will be expanding upon in the coming weeks. This was my first time speaking in front of an audience that didn’t consist of fellow students, and I found it to be a highly beneficial experience.

My talk was on what I have found to be the fundamental aspects of using simplicity as a process. This involved taking a look at what simplicity deals with, and relating these aspects to real world examples, before taking a look at how we can achieve simplicity.

From there I took a look at the benefits that simplicity brings with it. This looked both people using a simplified process and those who manage them. Finally, I took a look at some results of the application of simplicity, covering a wide range of areas. The first year students I help were very accommodating in letting me showcase some of their work in this area.

Trying Something Different

Trying Something Different

Creative Camp was a chance for me to really push myself, and I wanted to take that and run as far as I could with it. As such I wanted to push myself to try new things. I enjoy challenging myself with my code, why not with my speaking? As a result I set myself a few goals for the day:

  1. Use more visuals
  2. Pace myself better

People who have seen me speak in the past will, I hope, see that this is a rather big set of changes in my style of presentation. My presentations are normally quite minimal in layout, with just a few words on screen which I can talk around, with few visuals. I also normally pack a lot into my talks, which forces me to talk at a very high pace.

Whilst I personally have no issues with such a presentation style, I don’t want to limit myself to it. So for my talk at Creative Camp I wanted something different. I feel that I achieved the first of these goals very well, but that the second could be improved on. For a first attempt at such a shift, I am quite pleased with the results.

I think it’s important to always push to improve oneself, and that improvement can come through doing something unexpected. This is something that I fully intend to take further going forward.

Speaking from a Foundation

Whilst I made a point of trying something different in my presentation, I didn’t start from scratch. Over the last 12 months I have been working to build a solid foundation when it comes to speaking to groups. Whilst I pushed myself to try new things, I didn’t abandon everything I have learned and developed… that would be foolish.

Instead I used this as a foundation from which to build new things. This allowed me to start with something I am comfortable with, but take it in a new direction. This allowed me to try new things, without too much risk in doing so. If things started going wrong I was able to step back to a safer area and use those skills instead.

This is something I have found to be beneficial when trying anything, if you can branch out from an area you are confident in, trying new things is a much smaller step that it might otherwise be.

The Power of Practice Knowing

Practicing a talk is important. Knowing a talk is vital. Being able to communicate a message relies upon a mix of the two. You can give a talk on any topic with enough practice, but you will always be able to give a presentation on a topic you know.

I have gone from someone who needed a week of preparation for a talk, in order to being able to survive it, to someone who can put together a similar level of talk in a much shorter period of time. This affords me more time to improve the narrative, and the flow, of talks that I give. I don’t think it’s possible to assign a value to that.

Final Thoughts

Creative Camp was a great experience for me, both as an attendee and as a speaker. I was able to push myself to try new things, I met new people, and even had the chance to help solve a problem or two throughout the day.

I feel that Creative Camp, and conferences like it, are a great chance for people to take their first step into the world of public speaking. If it’s something you think you’d like to do then conferences like Creative Camp are for you.


Credit goes to Filly Campbell for the photos of my talk. You can check out photos from the rest of the event over on his flickr.