Last week, i.e on 25th and 26th of March '17, I had the chance to represent Mozilla at MobCon Europe '17 tech conference, as a Tech Speaker ! This was the fourth edition of this successful conference and this year I jumped right in to introduce the world of WebVR and AFrameVR to the participants there.
This conference took place in the city of Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria. Hence, this marked my first trip to Europe and also the first ever trip which I travelled and moved around ALONE. It all started with a 15 hour flight from Bangalore to Sofia via Frankfurt ! Did I mention that I actually ran a marathon race in Frankfurt airport so not to miss my connecting flight? :P Man, what a looooong airport it is, Frankfurt !
The Best Western Expo hotel where I stayed was fortunately just a stone's throw away from the conference venue- The Inter Expo Center, Tsarigradsko shose. I met Kenneth, a fellow speaker at the conference at the airport itself, we took a taxi to the hotel. Must say, the city is a very small one and it took us only 15 min to get to the hotel.
|View from the hotel room|
Sleep is for the weak - Although terribly jet lagged we set out to have lunch in the center while exploring the city. Metro services are quite good, affordable and easy to understand for newbie tourists (like me, of course ;) ) During lunch, Kenneth and I discussed a lot about the city, it's culture and also the Bulgarian alphabet. He taught me a fair deal of the Bulgarian alphabet, I could now read the signs by myself ! But the pace? Let's not talk about that :P
While touring the city on foot, post lunch, Kenneth and I spoke a great deal about the current status of the tech world, our topics at the conference and about the conference in general. He was a very experienced speaker and he shared his thoughts on what it's like to give a super cool presentation to a very big audience ! Much enriching, I must say :)
|From "Attendee" to "Speaker"|
Well, the conference was finally on and I started from my hotel room early, considering the "luggage" i had to carry. Meaning, the VR headset, my laptop, camera and the like ;) It was freezing cold that day, with a fair amount of rain too. My talk was in the second half of the day and it was much inspiring to see other fellow speakers give their sessions on a variety of topics which I didn't know about earlier.
|The hall where my talk was scheduled was called Vihren Hall which is named after one of the mountains near Sofia.|
|On the last day, it as freezing cold and I had to buy a jacket because it was summer back at home :P|
Finally it was my turn, I wasn't feeling nervous and that made me anxious if my procrastination was in any way leading to some over confidence. With many conflicting thoughts in my mind, I entered the hall, got things set up and people started entering slowly. Initially, it was only half full but eventually within the next few minutes, people rushed in, covering even the standing space at the back of the seats :D It was a great amount of audience - around 70 I suppose. I then started off with my talk. It took off very well, people were hooked to the presentation and I don't think anyone even tried to check social media on their phones during the talk. Well, I did have an eye on that ;)
As the talk rolled further, I had this feeling somewhere in me that I was going a bit faster than I wanted to. I also realised that it was already out of my control because the audience was involved and it was an immersive session, they were nodding their heads, etc. Amidst all this multitasking that was happening in my mind, I continued anyways and reached the point in my slide where I knew that the next slide was a "Thankyou" slide. I didn't want to leave as yet. I strongly felt guilty of having travelled all the way to Sofia, spending immense resources on Mozilla Techspekers' account and finally delivering a talk that was not upto the mark. I made an instant decision to show a live demo. I had no idea if it was gonna fail miserably or if it was gonna be a blockbuster.
I knew the link to of the great demos from my previous research about the topic and had also included it in one of the slides with a goal of letting people try it later at home. But, at that moment, I gathered all the courage and said, "Let's now see a great example demo of a VR experience built by the Mozilla VR team, please use your phones to navigate to this link" ! And the result ? See the below clip to know how it turned out:
It was received greatly by each one of them and everyone enjoyed it. They tried identifying themselves in the live VR scene :) Ah ! What a relief ;) After this, I ended my talk to a huge applause ! Apart from this duration part, everything else went as planned and I was really happy about the final outcome. However, I wanted someone to confirm if the talk was really worth me being happy. I spoke to Kenneth, he gave a great feedback - "Your speaking style and presentation is really good. It was interactive and the audience was hooked, I don't think anyone was checking their facebook during the talk ;) However, for someone like me who gets excited when I see some code, I think it would be great if you added more code examples next time !" Fair enough, that was an honest and first review I received for my talk :D My talk was flagged as beginner level, so I purposely skipped many in-depth details. However, I now understand that maintaining a good balance between the beginner and advanced levels is necessary because the audience doesn't really see the expertise level before attending a session, as Kenneth told me.
Later on, at the after party, I got a chance to interact with a lot of people who attended my talk and they gave a great feedback too :) One of them was like "The idea that something as cool as Virtual Reality can be built by using just HTML, completely blew my mind" Whoa ! The beginners were truly inspired to try out this new piece of technology ;) My goal was fulfilled and I now don't feel guilty of having spent Mozilla's resources for this talk :D
Thankyou MobCon for having me, it was a very well organised conference, indeed !
Finally, after a couple of hours of the touring the city, I started to my way back home. To my mother's relief, I returned back home safe and sound, in one piece :P
Here are a few pictures from the city tour and exploring the city culture and food :D