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.
- Sign up to give a talk to my local Meetup, a group of supportive, fun, smart people
- Made a detailed outline of my talk
- Created one presentation slide (simple and ugly) for each major point on the outline
- Participated in a public speaking workshop
- Using the slides and outline, scoped out the code demos I wanted to show (3 months to go)
- Created live demos, as simply as possible
- Added my demos to my slides
- Made the slides pretty and asked a designer friend to look them over (2 months to go)
- Sent the slides to a few people to review
- Decided on the narrative flow of the talk and added presenter notes
- Realized my talk should at least attempt to follow some web accessibility standards. Made text bigger and contrast higher
- Presented to my coworkers, took notes on feedback, and made changes
- 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.
- 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)
- 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.
- Got paired with a mentor for the conference, with the help of conference organizers and a group called Ember Women Helping Women
- Make demos better/prettier
- 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.