10 Tips to prepare your first talk

Last week I delivered my first conference talk. Right after the talk, organiser asked me “how do you feel” and I said “yeah, I think I delivered well” and she told me to turn back to see the big display screen. OMG, my talk was highest rated talk of whole event. Wow, I was amazed!

Being a new voice, I cannot express the joy and happiness I had. The talk evolved from my past experience and in beginning I just had some hazy ideas on what to say. There’s a lot I learnt from my journey of transforming this vague idea into my final presentation.

I hope my experience can help other new voices too, so here are 10 Tips that I would suggest:

1. Find a mentor: This is first and foremost step I would suggest if you’re new to speaking world. A mentor always show you your destination and guides you to move on correct path.(I got connected with my mentor Maaret Pyhäjärvi via speakeasy . I cannot imagine my first talk being a success with her feedback/inputs and dedication.) So, I highly recommend finding a mentor so that you’re not alone in your journey.

2. Clear Agenda: Be sure that your audience knows in beginning what flow they can expect from your talk. A clear agenda in start would help them connect more.

3. Story telling: People tend to remember stories more than mere bullet points (bullet points are like bullets, they kill!). Better idea is to narrate your story of what happened, how it affected you, your challenges, what you learnt etc. Some illustration/images could also help you explain your story. For instance, I used below picture to explain my situation when my manager told some work and I went crazy.

Story-telling (with illustration)

4. Analogies: People love analogies. Specially for technical concepts, analogies with real time things we see always helps. If I’m able to relate with something from day-to-day life then I would understand things better. For instance, I used ice-cream order analogy to explain APIs

Ice-cream Analogy for API testing

5. Real-time examples: Nothing connects audience more than situations we all face. Anyone can search for theoretical concepts but the fun lies in explaining your practical experience to understand these concepts. Some examples from your projects, day-to-day life would be great. Don’t use jargons(they get confused), say in simple words.

6. Engage audience: A talk becomes interesting if you do it just like you’re talking to friend/family. Make your presentation interactive by asking questions, giving small tasks that involves audience. You could also try humour, jokes to add more flavour. If you audience seems not very interesting or engaging, don’t get distracted.Try to just be focused on your content :) If you get nervous it’s fine, just give your best.

7. Practice: More you practice, more confident you’ll be. Try your talk in diverse meetups, webinars etc. Conduct practice sessions with your friends, teammates, people from different domains like developer, QA, PO and get their opinion. That not only makes your presentation refined but is also good way of collecting feedback.

8. Feedback: After getting some feedback from your practice sessions or to people whom you showed your ideas, don’t let it just go. Work on feedback and your talk would improve tremendously. I can say my talk improved 100% after I involved feedback/suggestions from my friends. (Special thanks to Dirk Meissner, Lalit Bhamare, Daniel Knott, rohit kadam, Maik)

9. Copyright sources(tools/images etc): I remember modifying my presentation the night before my talk because I used images with copyrights. It took me another couple of hours to find other suitable ones.

So, If you use images or some tools in your slides, be very careful about it’s source and license. Ofcourse, you don’t want unnecessary trouble.

If you use google image search, then do choose correct filter type in tools

Some other useful image sources :

For video recording, you can use QuickTime Player on ios.

10. Twitter handle on every slide: That’s a pro-tip which would help other people spread your thoughts easily. I didn’t do it for my talk and got this feedback from audience. Lesson learnt for me as well :)

I hope my experience gave you some useful tips and wish you good luck for your talk. If you think you don’t have anything to present or your topics are already presented, here’s 1 last tip: “You’re special, so is your story. It’s not about topics or new inventions you have to present, it’s just your experience on the topic that people want to hear”. My first talk was on API and we have thousands of other API talks, I just shared my version applying above tips :) So, gear up and take a step further to be on stage.

Good luck! #HappySpeaking

Thanks Anne-Marie Charrett for helping me to formalise my thoughts in this blog :)

Senior QA @Xing