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Someone asked me to give them some advice about speaking at conferences.
I'm not a Developer Advocate and I've only done around 90 talks in the last 5-6 years.
These are the talks that @starbuxman @venkat_s or @mkheck do in probably in 3-4 months 🤣, but still... Thread ⤵️
If you're not sure about giving a talk in front of lot of unknown people, it's easier to start at your own company where you know all your colleagues.I was lucky because my first talk was at @MadridGUG and by that time we were around 8-10 per meetup, so it was being among friends
You don't need to be an expert to give a talk. Some folks say to me: "But I don't really know too much about that topic". My answer is always: "You've worked with that technology, you've learned something, you have use cases,... talk about them"
Also, when speaking at a meetup you shouldn't worry about the time. It doesn't matter if you spend 40, 50 or 75 minutes to give the talk. It's all about "the process" of giving the talk in front of people. You'll worry about the timing later.
You'll be nervous, specially 5 minutes before your talk. No matter if it's your first talk or your 50th. That's totally fine and it means that you care about the talk. After 5 minutes everything will go away and you can enjoy the rest of the talk.
Just breathe and drink water.
When doing the talk at a conference you always have to keep in mind the time because you don't want to finish your 50 minutes talk in 25 because you were really fast. But also, you don't want to run out of time and skip part of your demo and the last 15 slides.
My advice for this is: rehearsal, rehearsal, rehearsal. You want to make sure that you have time to cover everything in the time you have, so the only way (at least for me) is doing rehearsal(s).
If my talk is in Spanish I'm not to worried about the language so, depending on the case I only do one rehearsal to make sure that I'm good with the timing.
I'm not an English native speaker, so if the talk is in English I need to practice it more to feel comfortable.
Don't worry too much about English if it's not your mother tongue. My English is far from being perfect. I make mistakes, I use the wrong verb tense, I get stuck with some words,... If you are able to communicate your ideas the attendees won't care about small mistakes.
Someone told me once that in IT we speak "broken-English" because for most of us English is our 2nd language but we manage to communicate and understand each other even if we make mistakes. No one will blame you for making the effort to give a talk in your 2nd language.
If you have seen any of my talks you know that I speak too fast in English and crazy-fast in Spanish 😅, so this is my trick: I always start a chronometer in my phone during the talk and I have a script with the main slides and the time.
This way I know if I'm speaking too fast or not (narrator voice: He is always ahead of the schedule 😆). I can always take a look and then I know that I can spent more time at the end of the talk or during my demo because I have time according to my script.
For example, this is the one I used for my last talk. This has been really useful for me during all these years.
Related to the rehearsal, another advice is doing it like you'll do it on the talk. That means using a remote (if you're going to use it), stand up and talk the same way you'll do it. Also mirror your screen or use extended screen with speaker notes.
Keep this in mind because If you want to do some demo you'll need to mirror you screens, so you'll lose your notes from that point. You can "un-mirror" your screens but I find it annoying for the attendees if you do it more that once.
Another trick: I always have my demos at the end of the talk, that way I can start with extended screen + speaker notes and then, I mirror the screens for the demo and finish the talk (in mirror mode) with only a few slides (summary and Q&A).
Another trick if you plan to do a live-coding session. Don't do it! 🤣
Really, doing a live-coding session is hard. A lot of things can go wrong and when something bad happens and the speaker spends 2-3 minutes debugging the issue, they has lost half of the audience.
If you really want to do live-coding, then my advice is: rehearsal, rehearsal, rehearsal. Even more than when you have slides and demo. When I prepare a live-coding session what I do is use my laptop during the rehearsal instead of my external keyboard.
This may sounds obvious but they keyboards are different and I use my external keyboard 95% of the time, so I'm used to it and not my laptops'. I rehearsal with my laptop so I make sure all the shortcuts and keys are were "they are supposed to be".
Let's talk about your laptop. You need to make sure that you have all the adapters you need. Nowadays it's pretty common that in all conferences the projectors have an HDMI port, but sometimes you need to deal with a VGA connection.
If your laptop doesn't have an HDMI/VGA ports, then please always carry adapters and make sure they work. I always carry a few adapters in my backpack even if I know that my laptop has an HDMI port that works (I use it everyday to connect it to my monitor).
The same applies to power outlet adapters. If you go to a country with a different type remember to have one to be able to plug in your laptop during the presentation.
If you want to get some feedback about the talk, make it easy for the attendees. Some conferences collect feedback and send it to you later but other (most of them) don't.
I always have in my last slide a link and a qr-code to an anonymous Google Form with 4 simple and optional questions. I always say that "it takes 30 seconds to send me feedback and that if they didn't like the talk, please let me know. I won't be offended."
And that's all. For me speaking at conferences is a nice way to give something back to the community. It also allows me to travel to different cities and countries and meet new people.
Any tricks you want to add?

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