The Ultimate Guide To Memorable Tech Talks

Imagine this. You’re a woman in a male-dominated field. English is not your first language. Even though you’re confident in your engineering work, the thought of public speaking and being recorded for the world to see absolutely terrifies you.

That was me, five years ago. Since then, I’ve moved into a successful career in Developer Advocacy and spoken at dozens of technical events in the U.S. and worldwide.

My name is Nina Zakharenko. I’m a long time software engineer and currently a Senior Cloud Developer Advocate at Microsoft, where my focus is making VS Code and Azure a great experience for Python developers everywhere. I delight in programming, drinking scotch, and tinkering with wearable electronics from my home base in Portland, Oregon. I’m most active on Twitter at @nnja.

My first major conference talks were at DjangoCon 2014 and PyCon US 2015. Since then, I’ve spoken at technical events all over the world. From Prague to Seoul, Singapore, Scotland, Paris and even a keynote at PyCon Russia where I got to hold an actual live python. One of my five-year goals is to be invited to speak at PyCon US, this time as a keynote speaker.

Holding a Python at PyCon Russia in Moscow. Trying, and failing, to mask the fear.

I think everyone has the ability to deliver stellar conference talks, which is why I took the time to write this post.

The Ultimate Guide

Each topic is a separate article, you can use the table of contents to jump to the sections that are most relevant to you.

1: Introduction

About me and my journey through technical public speaking.

2: Choosing a Topic

Selecting a topic you’d like to speak about.

3: Writing a Conference Proposal (or CFP)

A guide to writing and submitting conference talk proposals.

4: Tools of the Trade

Tools for brainstorming, creating slides, time-management, and more.

5: Planning and Time Estimation

How to plan your preparation time before the conference.

6: Writing a Talk

Writing an engaging talk and captivating slides.

7: Practice and Delivery

Preparing for and delivering on the big day.

Closing Thoughts

I hope you all enjoyed a whirlwind tour of my process for crafting and delivering memorable tech talks. My goal is to help others break into public speaking. If this post helped you submit or give a talk, please drop me a line and let me know. I love seeing others succeed.

Remember that what works for me won’t always work for you, but you can still learn from my mistakes. I don’t have all the answers, and I’m not always perfect. Sometimes I don’t even follow my own advice. I even get a little nervous every time I get on a stage. However, I’m a world away from my first attempt. Every time I do a new talk, I continue to learn and improve.

I loved writing these articles. The goal is to keep them relevant by updating them with new suggestions as I continue to learn. If you loved reading it, please stay in touch or leave a response or learn about what my employer, Microsoft, is doing with Python, watch a selection of my talks, or get in touch:

In 2019 I’ll be speaking at PyCascades, PyCon US, and OSCON in the US, and the Microsoft Ignite The Tour in Seoul and Mumbai. If you’d like me to speak at your conference, reach out via my speaker page. I won’t be able to say yes to every request, but I’ll do my best. Note that I only speak at conferences that have an enforceable code of conduct and make a best effort to have a diverse set of speakers and participants. I won’t break up your all white manel because you forgot to include women and people of color and got in trouble for it.

Hopefully, as you were reading this you thought of a few ideas for topics you’d like to share and speak about. Write them down in a convenient place, and keep an eye out for interesting conferences to submit your next proposal using resources like PaperCall, CFP Land, and Look for opportunities for scholarships for underrepresented folks if you qualify.

Photo by Joe Caione on Unsplash

If this is a leap that you’ve always wanted to take, what are you waiting for? Take the first step. I compiled these tips based on multiple years of experience speaking. I stumbled and made mistakes so that you don’t have to make the same ones. You have all the tools you need to get started, outlined right here. Don’t let imposter syndrome get in the way of your own success.

Thank you sigje and Lisa Martens💙