Giving a presentation about a tech stack you’ve been working on with your team can be a frightening experience if you’ve never done it before. I remember having to be one of three presenting an app that my teammates and I built at a coding bootcamp. The difficult part about presenting was making sure that I didn’t spew technical jargon while still being able to communicate my part of the presentation. That meant researching the details of the app to the point that I knew enough not to rely on key phrases. My experience in giving a talk is very confined so I’ve dug up answers that developers have given to the question of how to perform coding talks with minimal experience.
“I recommend going in person and talking to the speakers and organizers. Many meetups and conferences (particularly the free ones) prioritize new speakers so it’s just a matter of finding the right people in your area.
Events with “lightning talks” are a great place to start because you get to meet multiple speakers at once, and they’ll be able to help guide you to the right people.
As for finding the events themselves, I just launched a prototype of a site designed for just that: findTech.events (open-source on github)
I’ve only gotten a few hours in on the project so far, but the idea is that you will be able to search for conferences in your area, with your preferred techs, and if I can get the data – call-for-proposal dates.”
It is all about the story, people want to hear a good story! This talk is what really inspired me to take a whack at speaking.
Couple ideas for getting started:
Definitely checkout local Meetups for speaking opportunities
Consider doing a lightening talk your first time.
If you have an opportunities to talk internally at your company, start there. I started out by giving a lot of presentations at my company, then graduated to Meetups, and eventually made it to the big stage at RubyConf.
About giving talks:
- Talk about the things you are passionate about. It doesn’t matter if you feel like it’s a cliche or over-represented topic. Experience and passion are way more important than the topic itself.
- Keep the slides minimalistic and use images (but avoid videos). Explain everything in person through speech.
- Practice. Make sure that the talk will not be too long or too short. Those are awkward.
- Don’t over explain, it’s not a class. It’s better to give an impression about complex topics to the beginner half of the audience than to bore the experienced half. Beginners will pick up enough to dig deeper into the topic at home.
About getting signed up for talks:
I am only presenting at local meetups (for now) and I am satisfied with it. This is my experience so far:
- Getting signed up to a conference is pretty difficult (for the first time at least).
- Getting signed up for a meetup is a piece of cake. In my country, there is usually a shortage of speakers. Just write an email to a few meetup groups, they will be happy about it.
- Meetups have a very friendly tone, it’s okay to be amateurish there.
I don’t think you have anything to worry about, it will be a nice experience. Good luck!
I have given a couple of talks and my advice is this:
- Use large images that fill your whole screen, don’t use borders. Large images look better than small ones
- Don’t use too much text. Use at least font size 30. This will prevent you from pushing too much on the slide and at the same time even people in the back of the room can read it.
- If you use text, use white text on a black background otherwise you will have a huge white rectangle of light on the wall behind you. Darkmode ftw!
- Beware of giving live demos since they tend to go good all the time except when you’re actually doing your talk
- Take your listeners on a journey; introduce a problem and why it is a problem. Then tell how this problem can be solved.
- If you give your talk in English and it is not your native language, then rehearse, but also relax; no one will laugh at you if you make a mistake
I’ve done a bit of public speaking on coding regularly over the last year. If there’s one single bit of advice I can give, it’s consider your demographic before you plan your presentation. It’s often overlooked, but is a crucial component.
I’ve presented coding and knowledge sharing in schools, universities and professional environments; by understanding your audience, the rest will follow.
Engaging your audience is so much easier when the content is appropriately accessible and digestible for the audience. I’ve found this out, ashamedly, the hard way!
I don’t really use notes, although I know some are more comfortable with an aide of some sort. However, what I do have is one small bit of card with ‘Speak Slower’ written in capitals. This is a visual prompt that catches my eye throughout the presentation, that the audience cannot see, but will usually let me go “ah, yeah, I’m speaking to quick”. It’s so easy to lose track of your verbal pace when presenting code – I find this particularly as I get towards the crux of my topic or conclusion that I’ve been excitedly building up to.
Anecdotes are useful, but don’t overuse them. Whilst anecdotes are a good way of maintaining engagement and justifying an opinion, they’re not explicitly objective and therefore should be used sparingly – or at least appropriately.
Also, when presenting something that requires some digestion, it’s OK to pause briefly. Incorporate it into your presentation, and it’ll be more natural.
Ignore the imposter syndrome that you might feel with public speaking, expertise is relative and based on our experiences. Focus on finding an audience that would benefit from hearing about your experiences instead – there’s always going to be someone looking to get to where you’re already at.
For giving a talk, I find starting with an outline is always the best approach to structuring my talk and flushing out the content for the different talking points. I always have a draft of an outline before I touch any presentation tools like powerpoint.
Presentations should be supporting aids to a talk, not the main content itself.
Lastly, practice giving your talk. Practice makes for perfect.