That’s the title of the presentation I gave at WordCamp Thessaloniki 2019. If you’re reading this article 5 years later, back in the day most conferences and meet-ups where happening in physical locations, where you could go and meet other people in real life.
Yes, we were that crazy. Our Greek community of people who are involved in the website building business is not that big, so these events were a great opportunity to meet with friends and colleagues from all around the country.
I remember a discussion I had with some friends during lunch, after a summer WordPress meet-up, where I was wondering whether it’s a good idea to submit my application as a speaker at the event.
My friends were pushing me to do it but I was making up all sort of excuses. You see, there are three things that scare me in life. Loosing a member of my family, needles and public speaking. Maybe snakes too, if it’s a fast one. I hate snakes.
The first time I gave a presentation in public was back at 2011 and the title was “Woke up in 2021”. It’s funny because if you see my presentation, there’s no mentioning of any physical interactions. I’m talking about remote working as the norm on a global scale, but hey, let’s get back on the subject. I remember walking towards the main room where the event was taking place, full of excitement and pride about my kick-ass presentation and the fact that my girlfriend and my friends were going to see how awesome I am. Now it’s probably a good time to tell you that this event usually had around 80 attenders. But that time…was different.
So I’m entering the room and it’s not a fucking room. It was an auditorium! And there were TV Cameras and Journalists and around 500 people (maybe more) and a lot of lights. Blinding lights like the ones you see when you die in the movies.
I was looking around, sweating from everywhere and my heart was pumping like I had an adrenaline shot in my chest, when I heard a loud voice in my ear yelling at me: “Thanos, I’m talking to you! You’re up”. Now my legs are frozen but I managed to climb to the stage where they handed me a remote control and a microphone.
“Hello, I’m Thanos and today….”,
I don’t remember what I said or how I said it but I do remember two things.
I took my first breath after 15 seconds - while I was talking - by coughing and then inhaling like I was drowning and then... I hear a “crack"!
Just behind me, Apostolos said to George (The hosts of the event): “If he breaks the podium, I am leaving".
Since then, I’m trying to work the problem by speaking in various events of all sizes, so I agreed with my friends and submitted my application. My presentation got accepted and the rest is history of a world so different from yours, dear friend in 2024.
The day before the conference, I was so happy that I ate a few cranberries I found in a box my wife (remember that girlfriend I was telling you about?) has for special breakfast days.
And guess what friends. I’m allergic to cranberries. I didn’t know that at the time, of course. I started guessing it when I looked at the mirror and my head was like Mr. Potato.
Before I went completely numb, I drove myself to the hospital. After a couple of hours and some cortisone and antihistamines administered to me through one of my veins, I was back on my feet again.
The doc gave me some more cortisone and antihistamine pills and she said I was going to be alright, but I needed to rest and definitely don’t speak to my event, but I wasn’t going to miss it, I was prepared and nothing was going to stop me.
The same night before the event, on Speaker’s dinner, I scared some people because they thought I was really dying at some point, when I stopped talking and was hardly breathing.
But I didn’t die.
No sir, I was back on my feet in no time and then left for my hotel and slept for 5 hours until the next morning, where I was a bit yellow, but other than that, pretty cheerful.
The stage was mine, I explained what happened to me to my audience, they laughed, it wasn’t a joke. I gave my talk like a true hero and I want you to know people, I would have been awesome this time if it wasn’t for these fucking cranberries.
You can find my presentation slides on Speaker Deck