In-between Applause

I’ve been public speaking for years now. In this blog post, I walk through my experience giving a talk at MobileOne on November 13th last year. Throughout, I share how I build, prepare and give a presentation.

This story started on May 7th with an email from MobileOne organizers. They were looking for a speaker to give a talk in November.

I assume that they were interested in me primarily because Vinted, where I lead engineering, is popular in France. In 2019, the Vinted mobile app was the 6th most downloaded in France. The five apps with more downloads: WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Netflix, Snapchat, Instagram. Excellent company to be in.

After the initial email, it took a couple of weeks to iron out all the details. I reviewed the conference website and asked a bunch of questions I usually ask: information about the stage, will the talk be recorded, time constraints, will there be a Q&A. I have this blog post bookmarked and use it to get ideas for questions to ask.

I agreed to give a talk I’ve never given before. I had a name - Sustainable Speed. I had a short description, which I’ve created during the email exchange. I had no slides. But it was only May; I had months to prepare a 20-minute keynote presentation until November.

I’m sure that you can guess what happened next. The Instant Gratification Monkey won 🐒.

The deadline to send the slides to the organizers was November 6th. The file “sustainable speed.key” was created November 1st.

My process for creating a presentation is quite simple:

I design the slides for my presentations with Apple Keynote on my 13” Macbook Pro (made in 2015, when Apple still knew how to make keyboards). I start by making a rough outline of slides and then fill them out until I’m reasonably happy. While I do that, the presentation starts to take shape in my head.

My slides use big text, a ton of contrast and not too many words. I don’t use slide transitions and animations. I do use full-screen images.

I enjoyed and still enjoy presentations by Zach Holman, so my slide style is inspired by his. He created an excellent website about public speaking, which I’ve browsed more than once to become a better speaker. I’ve also read multiple books on crafting presentations. Out of those, Confessions of a Public Speaker is the one I would recommend first.

Developing the slides for Sustainable Speed was not too hard. I had a good idea on the major points I wanted to hit. I’ve sent the slide deck to the organizers on November 4th, informing them that as I rehearse, I might want to send an updated version.

I rehearse by connecting my Macbook to the TV, taking out the presentation clicker out of the desk drawer and walking around the room while I talk. I try to go through the whole presentation each time I rehearse, no matter how stuck I become. Oh, and I did become stuck quite a lot while rehearsing this talk.

The first rehearsal is always the hardest. It took more than an hour for me to get through the whole talk the first time. Not because I had a ton of content to get rid of. But because that first time, all the ideas and thoughts have to be put together into a coherent speech. I got stuck a lot.

I was also not entirely comfortable with giving a keynote presentation to start this big event. Most of my other talks are focused around stories with a single takeaway at the end. This talk had to be different. I had to to be inspiring and take a broader perspective.

Instead of feeling inspiring, I felt like a fake. Who am I to tell 600 people in the audience all those things? Impostor syndrome was in full swing. I exclaimed many times during rehearsal that I’ll never do another presentation again. Spoiler alert: I did two public talks since then.

I was able to crack the talk and get comfortable with it eventually. I don’t try to memorize the speech. I rehearse until I’m ready to be fully authentic with the material I want to deliver. I don’t know how many times I’ve rehearsed Sustainable Speed. More than 10. Probably more than 15.

Shout-out to my fiancée. She patiently listened to some of those rehearsals, bearing with me being frustrated and sharing pointed feedback.

Fast-forward to the event. I arrived in Paris at 5 pm on November 12th. I checked in to my hotel at around 6:30 pm. I had a quick dinner in a nearby African food place. Most people would’ve then enjoyed a lovely evening in Paris. Not me. Not before a conference. I spent the rest of the evening in my hotel room. I’ve rehearsed the presentation two or three more times. I watched funny videos for an hour to calm myself before sleep.

I woke the next morning, rehearsed one final time and took a 40-minute walk to the event venue. I walked around the empty site (I was, of course, early) and got familiar with the stage. I took a seat on the far right and introduced myself to the announcer when he showed up.

The announcer and I discussed how he’d introduce me and exchanged jokes about being nervous. I was nervous. I’ve listened to music until the seats filled with people. My Shot from Hamilton was likely among the songs.

The big moment came.

“Mindaugas Mozūras, the Head of Engineering at Vinted!”


The nervousness? Gone in an instant. I gave the talk. It went as well as I could’ve hoped! I thanked the audience.


After the talk, I got approached by several attendees with questions. If you have doubts about whether to walk up to someone after they gave a talk - please do. Most speakers are in still under the adrenaline rush from giving a speech and are ready to engage with other human beings.

Fast-forward to a couple of days later, my talk was selected among the favourites. Well, I thought to myself, this went all right - I unquestionably have to repeat this fun public speaking thing 😅.

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