I recently attended the first Manchester Tech Night, on the 20th Nov 2013 hosted by Chris Northwood from the BBC and Michael Hall from Harvey Nash. It was also sponsored by the good folks at UKFast. This inaugural event at the Manchester TechHub on Dale Street was also my first venture into public speaking.

If you have never visited TechHub before, the venue is large enough for about a good 100 or so people. But small enough so everyone can see the screens and hear the speakers quite easily. The attendance for this first event was perhaps far better than expected and free beers (aka dutch courage) and pizzas were thrown in. Sadly, missed out on the pizza as it proved popular.

The Speakers

The opening speaker was Dan Hett, Senior Game Dev at the BBC and the organiser behind MCRGameJam. His talk was titled ‘Disgard Rulebook, Make Videogames‘, explaining his attitude to coding and using programming as a way to rapidly phototype and experiment. It’s always good to have a play with code, break things then fix them and perhaps even improve upon the base code. For me, it’s the best way of learning. His talk was very entertaining and through his own admission he overran a bit! Here’s a link to his slides and his blog entry.

Next it was to the lightning talks which myself, Warren Mathew and Ian Forrester covered off. Next up was Ian, talking about Qualified Self then on to Warren. Both talks had the audience listening and laughing especially as Warren rapidly closed off his talk as time was against him.

Next up was me about Responsive Web Design and how it can help from a e-commerce point of view. I must admit I wrote loads out for this but quickly realised I was never going to fit it all within the 5 minutes so there was a little quick thinking to be done on the fly to reduce the content. For my first attempt at public speaking in front of around 90 people (if not more) I think it went fine. Before I knew it, I was seeing the timer ticking down to 16 seconds or so. It felt quicker than 5 minutes in any case. I didn’t use slides, I didn’t want to risk ’death by powerpoint‘. Since it was my first attempt at public speaking I got an extra round of applause – thanks guys!

Last up was Simon Reekie, Head of QA from BskyB about the value of aligning the test and dev relationship.

The After Party

After the series of interesting talks, there was some closing remarks from the organisers, Chris and Michael. After which there was a bit of time for a spot of networking. I got some very nice remarks about my talk and one attendee found it very interesting as he runs an online bookmakers.

Personally, I think it was a great night and I hope to attend the next one in the New Year. If you are thinking about taking steps in public speaking, this is a great chance to give it a go. The atmosphere throughout the evening was very relaxed and informal and you don’t have to use slides.

I hope to see you attending or perhaps speaking at the next Manchester Tech Night. Hats off to the organisers for putting this event on, I think it will go from strength to strength.