On giving my first tech talk

Big thanks to CoCoon and CodeaholicsHK for having me speak.

If you’re a geek like me, you probably follow the different conferences in the tech community. And the most fascinating part of those, to me, are the tech talks. I always wondered how knowledgeable these developers must be, to be confidently sharing their knowledge.

Did I ever think of giving a talk myself? Well, I did. And that was a really scary thought, one that was more of a “what if..” rather than a real possibility.

So, it was quite the daunting experience for me to be talking at Codeaholics HK, to an audience of mostly experienced developers across different fields, with me having freshly graduated from college. Let me be clear, I was in no way an expert on the topic of my talk, having just discovered it about 2 months back.

I had missed a Hong Kong JS conference talk on the Electron platform and was keen to learn if there was a similar talk later, when someone mentioned I should take some time to learn the technology and give a talk myself !

I had 2 months to learn it and I thought to myself, I can do this. And I began as I would any other project of mine, with procrastination. After a month of doing almost nothing, I figured I should really get started if I didn’t want to embarrass myself.

I had been dabbling with Desktop apps for a while, hence my interest in Electron, and I began to try out the new framework, got through the initial Hello World projects and looked up existing resources on Electron and similar projects.

Turns out there were quite a few similar projects and I didn’t really have time to explore all of them well. Which brings me to my first lesson learnt,

Lesson 1 : Do your research well

I know this seems obvious, but that’s often the area sacrificed in. For me, I didn’t really check out a similar framework Qt. And, when questions were asked about it, I had to mumble through with the little knowledge I had.

Lesson 2 : Keep the content visually simple

Solid colours are great!

Yeah, simple slides with the correct amount of information go a long way towards keeping the audience interested. I tried not to keep too much text and focused often on screenshots or icons to get the point across (thanks FontAwesome for having icons for almost everything).

I wanted my audience to know how easy it was to get started with the Electron framework, so I made a short demo to end the presentation with. I think it was a good idea to simply show a small app, with a couple buttons and actually package it into OSX or Windows installers. And that got me to the next lesson,

Lesson 3 : In a demo, whatever can go wrong, probably will

Keeping in mind that it was a risk I went on to my short demo at the end of the presentation. Here’s what didn’t quite work out:

  • I started the demo, without noticing that my MacBook wasn’t projecting my editor and terminal when I switched from Keynote. When the audience told me they couldn’t see it, I had to stop and switch to screen-mirror.
  • I was without WiFi on my laptop while presenting, so the Bootstrap I was loading from a CDN for my demo, didn’t load. I presented with not-so-pretty buttons.
  • I had no idea that my MacBook would not show notifications while hooked on to a projector. My demo was hoping to pop up a Notification to show how Electron handles native Desktop Environments.

All in all, the demo was okay and I managed to explain all of what I hoped to get across from it. And finally,

Lesson 4 : You don’t have to be an expert to share

This was my main takeaway from the entire Codeaholics event. No one cared that I was young, and seemed genuinely happy listening to me and gave very positive comments. Even though I myself have much to learn about Electron, I was happy to share what little I knew and help spark an interest in someone who had probably not heard of this framework.

As we grow and learn from those around us, we shouldn’t forget that others too maybe able to learn from us.

All in all I thought the entire event was a great success with very interesting talks by Pedro Pimentel, Matthew Rudy Jacobs and yours truly. I thought the most proud moment for me was when a Codeaholics member spoke to me after my talk, asking how I managed to run my build scripts as she couldn’t get hers to run, and said she would give try out Electron further.

Thanks to Codeaholics HK and CoCoon for having me over, and I certainly look forward to many more Codeaholics meetings. If you’re interested in Electron, take a look at my presentation below and feel free to try it out and/or find me on social media.