Mittwoch, 8. Juni 2016

7 Tips to survive your first ever conference presentation ;)

Are you sometimes bored or think, you would like to try something new? Something that challenges you?
I was bored, so I submitted a last minute  abstract for Apex Connect 2016 last november. You just have to write a little text about what you would like to talk about. We all have something to talk about, right? So that part was easy. And the conference was scheduled for april 2016. You probably think… That is a loooooong time. Lots of time to finish the project, prepare the perfect presentation and practice your speaker skills. Think again!
Deadlines have a habit of sneaking up on you. So...

Tip No. 1 : Start right away!

If it is not part of your usual work anyway, schedule some time every week to work on your project and/or presentation.
You might also want to think about some presentations you can do to practice your speaker skills. We have a regular thing called "DevTalk", where anyone can speak about stuff they're working on. Another opportunity could be a meetup  or a smaller conference in your area. Keep your eyes open for things like that. It really helps.

Tip No. 2: Keep it simple!

While preparing your presentation you should keep in mind, that you usually only have 45 minutes time for your presentation. You don't have time for all the interesting little details you might want to talk about. So try to do an overview, so everyone gets an overview of the topic and has a place to start to dig in. You can always prepare an additional paper or some blog posts with more detailed information.

By the way… you don't have to keep an eye on your watch the whole time. There will probably be someone there, who will give you a sign, when your time runs out.

Tip No. 3: "Testdrive" your final presentation!

Hopefully you are done with your final presentation at least two weeks before the conference. I did a trial run of my presentation for my colleagues. I got some great feedback and i had a feeling how much time i really needed. I ended up changing a few things and delete a view slides, since the presentation took a bit more time then i had anticipated.

Tip No. 4: Don't do last minute changes! (except of course you really have to)

It's the day before the presentation and you are probably quite nervous by now. At least i was and i was constantly going over my slides. And every time i found something, that i thought i could have done better. But I decided to leave it as is. I only did one change. I added a slide with a quote I found on linkedIn earlier that day.

"No matter how many mistakes you make or how slow you progress, you are still way ahead of everyone who isn't trying."

I felt, that this quote sums it up very well and it actually helped me to...

Tip No.5: Have a good nights sleep!

So, not much to say about this one…

Tip No. 6: Don't freak out! Murphy will have his way, anyway…

So, it is the day of the presentation. You might fell like running the other way right now. I sure did. I never was good at speaking in front of a crowd. Especially a crowd, i did not know. So this was the moment i thought: What were you thinking???? The hour before my slot i used to go over my presentation one more time and prepare all the tools i would use in my demo. I felt really well prepared. And then this happened….

I went into the room to set up my laptop, but the projector did not work. The tech guys got on it right away but they did not get it to work before the talk was scheduled to start. Since i knew exactly how much time i needed for my presentation i decided to start without my slides. You usually have some introduction stuff you can do without slides. So i hoped for the best and went on with it…

A few minutes into the presentation the doors opened and a really huge ladder was set up right in front of me… it was kind of surreal, but funny at the same time… they worked on the projector and finally got it to work. So i could move on and finish my presentation with my slides and the demo.

Did i mention that this was the room where all the presentations where filmed. So there is proof of this story somewhere.

What I'm trying to say is… No matter how well prepared you feel, there are always things that can and probably will go wrong. In that case: Don't freak out, just smile and talk through it!

Tip No.7: Relax and give yourself a pat on the shoulder!

You've done it! You made it through your very first conference presentation in one piece. Be proud and enjoy the moment.

So, there you have it. My tips to survive your very first conference talk. I actually enjoyed the experience enough to submit 3 abstracts for DOAG 2016 right away.

What about you? Any fun stories about your first public talk?