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Challenging yourself at conferences

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Challenging yourself at conferences is something I want to discuss in this post. Because over the weekend I did something I thought I would never do before.

Last Saturday I presented at SQL Saturday Sofia in Bulgaria. Which you can read about in detail here.

During the conference I attended a Big Data Cluster session hosted by Rozalina Zaharieva and Dimitar Zaharlev. You can read the abstract for their session in detail here.

Now, some of you may be wondering what the big deal is about that. Well, the answer is that the session was presented in Bulgarian, definitely a language which I have no knowledge of.

Of course, they made it clear to everybody at the start it was in Bulgarian. I decided to challenge myself and still sit through it.

Because the slides were in English, and by picking up certain words and through their body language I could still understand a fair amount of it.

I’ll admit it’s not the first time I have sat in a session that was spoken in another language and enjoyed it.

For example, just after I moved to the Netherlands, I sat through an entire session by Sander Stad. It was done in Dutch however I still found it reasonably easy to follow.


I know in the past people have challenged others to go out of their comfort zones at conferences by attending sessions on topics they do not know. Something that I definitely support.

In addition, I think people should challenge themselves in other ways at conferences as well. Especially all those who have moved to a new country or are attending a conference in another country.

Try attending a session a session in a language you do not know that well. I know it sounds daunting, so I recommend trying it on a topic that you are really interested in.

Another thing to remember is that there are plenty of people out there who attend sessions even though they are not their first language.

In fact, for some people the language spoken during the session is not even their second or third. However, they still attend these sessions and I respect them for doing that.

Final word

So, as long as you are comfortable with it, consider challenging yourself the next time you are at a conference.

Feel free to let me know your thoughts on this topic with a comment below.

Alternatively, if you have already attended a session done in a language you had no knowledge of feel free to share your experience here.

Challenging yourself at conferences
Taken day before I challenged myself in Bulgaria
Published inFood for thought

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