Preparing for a dev conference talk when you are a total n00b

TL;DR Present at your local Meetup. The deadline will force you to get slides/demos done so you can spend more time honing the delivery.

In December, my proposal was accepted for a single-track conference of ~1000 developers, called EmberConf. The thing was, I had never given a talk as a developer… or any talk in front of a thousand people, for that matter. It was a career goal I had set for myself, and I could hardly believe it was coming true less than a year after learning to code. Here’s what I’ve done so far to prepare my talk.

  1. Sign up to give a talk to my local Meetup, a group of supportive, fun, smart people
  2. Made a detailed outline of my talk
  3. Created one presentation slide (simple and ugly) for each major point on the outline
  4. Participated in a public speaking workshop
  5. Using the slides and outline, scoped out the code demos I wanted to show (3 months to go)
  6. Created live demos, as simply as possible
  7. Added my demos to my slides
  8. Made the slides pretty and asked a designer friend to look them over (2 months to go)
  9. Sent the slides to a few people to review
  10. Decided on the narrative flow of the talk and added presenter notes
  11. Realized my talk should at least attempt to follow some web accessibility standards. Made text bigger and contrast higher
  12. Presented to my coworkers, took notes on feedback, and made changes
  13. Presented to my local Meetup, more notes, more changes ← The best thing I did so far. I am a procrastinator and this forced me to “finish” my presentation a long time before the conference, giving me more time to practice and polish.
  14. Asked other conference speakers if anyone wanted to practice over Google Hangouts. Met with one other person. Even more notes and changes. (1 month to go)
  15. Asked about some nitty gritty details about the presenter setup, and scheduled a time during the conference to do a quick test of AV. This was 99% just to help settle my own nerves.
  16. Got paired with a mentor for the conference, with the help of conference organizers and a group called Ember Women Helping Women
  17. Make demos better/prettier
  18. Practice delivery over and over again

And that’s where I am now. There have been two major challenges. First, making the time to work on my presentation. Second, overcoming my own worries. With the head start I have on preparing the materials, I am now concentrating on what it takes to have a confident delivery.

P.S. Does anyone even say the word n00b anymore? I’m late to the party.

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