My First Conference Talk

I gave my first conference talk Persisting Data with SQLite & Content Provider at AnDevCon Santa Clara a few days ago. It went really well, and I’d like to share with you my experience.

Choosing a talk topic

It all started as part of Chiu-Ki Chan’s effort to increase the number of female speakers at Android conferences. She organized a hangout to help us with talk proposals. I wasn’t sure what to talk about, but I got the advice to choose a topic that may not be a trendy new one but many developers find challenging to work with. Immediately SQLite & Content Provider came to my mind. I used them quite a few times in my apps and also taught this subject at my Android classes. I often hear other Android developers complain about the boilerplate code when working with SQLite & Content Provider and my students said the homework on this was the toughest.

So, I wrote a proposal on the topic, submitted it to a few conferences, and got accepted by AnDevCon.

protip Choose a topic you feel passionate about, not just one that is popular. Don’t give up if your proposal isn’t accepted.

Preparation

I used my class materials to put together the slides and gave a talk on the subject at our local Android meetup as a dry run. I invited 3 other Android Developers to join my talk. They each talked for 5 minutes about how they persist data for their apps before I dived into mine. Peter talked about SharedPreferences, which gave people a contrast of Shared Prefs vs. SQLite; Yenchi shared how to use greenDao and Ian shared how he wrote his own threading a few years ago to handle Db operations. Questions asked during the talk gave me ideas on which part of my talk might need improvements or clarifications. Ana also gave me feedback on the talk after the meetup.

protip Give the talk at a local meetup is a good opportunity for you to practice and improve your talk. Ask friends to be your audience and get their feedback.

Two weeks before the conference, I started to update my slides daily and working on sample code. Creating slides and sample code is a time consuming process. It’s not just about knowledge on the technical subject. I constantly think about my audience. Will they be able to follow the flow of the talk? How do I set the pace? What are some of the things that I can mention to make the subject more interesting? Having experience teaching in class helps me, but classroom lecturing is different from giving a talk at a conference. I also did quite a bit of research on the various libraries that work with SQLite & Content Provider.

The newsletters from Technically Speaking (archives here) helped me greatly to prepare for my talk. I was reading them even when I was on my flight to AnDevCon. Observing from other experienced speakers was also helpful.

At AnDevCon

It was very fun to hangout with old and new friends at AnDevCon. It was fun hanging out with Chiu-Ki and Kelly, who are both experienced speakers. They gave me not only good tips on speaking but also emotional support as friends.

Hanging out with Chiu-KiKelly
Hanging out with friends from Seattle & Chiu-Ki

Tuesday night I went to GDG Silicon Valley with friends for Effie’s talk on Android TV. It was so nice to meet the other GDG organizers, Women Techmakers, and to support other women for their public speaking.

At GDG Silicon Valley, Effie’s talk on Android TV

My talk was scheduled as the last session at 4:15PM on the last day. The good thing was that I had more time to prepare and tweak it. The bad thing was that I got very distracted at talks that I wanted to attend myself as the time got closer to mine. It was also challenging since I booked a flight to go home the same evening. Next time, I will try asking the organizer to switch my slot ahead of time.

My talk went pretty well with no setup or technical difficulties. I used a Nexus 9 tablet to help me with my notes and scripts, which was important for live coding and demos that I typically include in my classes & meetup talks. The pace was good and audience was engaging.

During my talk, both Kelly and Chiu-Ki tweeted about it. Chiu-Ki even made a sketchnote for me!

I was so relieved once my talk was over and I was very happy as I caught my flight on time to return home.

After the talk

It’s important to share my slides & recording of the talk on social media to continue engaging my audience, and to help those who were unable to attend in person. I’m also writing my first blog about it!

I hope sharing the experience of my first conference talk helps you get started with speaking at conferences too!