Attending a Conference: What I Learned About Speaker and Talks
End of May I attended the Anglebracktes/DevIntersection conference in Orlando. It was my first big conference and my first time in the US. This was quite an experience in several ways but it was not the technical stuff that impressed me the most. I had only one to two “good” talks a day. Where I learned a lot and the content was exactly on my knowledge level. More impressive was the spirit at the conference, the unity and seeing (famous) speakers. Speakers who are giving a lot of talks all around the world.
Attending the sessions I found things I liked or disliked and started to take notes and wrote them down. At the end, I had a little list of Do´s and Don’t´s. These notes were meant for me, to remember and mind them for my presentations. To become a better speaker and giving better talks myself. Now, I want to share these notes with you.
Writing down negative points was nothing negative itself. I just took the opportunity to learn something next to the technical content.
Everything mentioned is my personal opinion and not necessarily and generally valid. This is not a checklist, some points fit in/to a talk and should be considered and some do not.
- Asking questions to integrate the audience
- If something goes wrong or takes some time, asking questions or telling jokes are a good possibility to keep the audience integrated. (Well… doing jokes in that situation is not everybody’s strength)
- Showing Twitter/social media handles at some introduction slide
- Using the screen magnifier
- Using some tool that can paint colored rectangles to highlight parts in a demo
- Showing a slide with links (to the presentation or further reading) with shortened URLs (maybe also QR Codes?).
- Slide explaining for who and which skill level the talk is
- If the time is getting short better skip slides entirely instead of hurrying over them
- Show a “live coding” video and explain what is happening there instead of real live coding
- Don´t answer your asked questions immediately yourself. If you ask questions and going to answer them by yourself, wait a moment so the audience can at least think about it
- In case of asking negative questions, the audience could feel mocked. Rhetoric questions should be used wisely too
- Avoid showing the Taskbar while presenting. The Taskbar inclusive icons can be a big visual distraction
- Nobody needs fancy slide animations. It´s just annoying
- Drinking from a bottle. Using a glass looks way more professional
Skill comes with practice
Seeing that even in the keynote given by skilled Microsoft speakers, connecting the screen or showing a demo went wrong - Seeing that all these kind of “bad” things happened and nobody really cared - Seeing that all these speakers are not superheroes and that their presentations are not some art masterpiece - motivated me.
It is still hard work and you need a lot of preparation and courage to give such a talk. But everybody started small and nobody´s perfect. And the secret is - nobody is expecting perfection. So be confident and practice whenever it is possible and you are going to rock your next presentation.
Found some typo, want to give feedback or discuss? Feel free to contact me :)