I’m currently thoroughly enjoying FOSDEM, as I have all the other times I’ve been. It’s great that these people have made the time to come and give talks for free, so I hope I don’t sound ungrateful when I make these observations.
When giving a technical talk:
- make sure you have actually read your material! It’s surprising the number of presenters who will not know the order of their slides or what some part of what they have written means!
- try to practice delivering it. It will give you some idea of what pace it needs to be presented at.
- test all the facilities you need in your talk! If you need to plug a projector into your laptop, try this ahead of time and make sure it works! If you need Internet connectivity, try this ahead of time and make sure it works! If you have a demo, try it and make sure it works! The message here is, try it ahead of time and make sure it works!
- resist the urge to show a shell in a terminal emulator. They’re really hard to read on a large screen and don’t get across the essential information in the brief way needed for a presentation. Try to avoid showing anything running in a shell unless absolutely necessary. Watching pages of output fly by only to have you say “see, it has worked” doesn’t work particularly well in this setting, as there is far too much distracting information.
- if you must use a terminal then set it to black text on a white background, turn off coloured output (e.g. in ls and other applications) and hike the font size up. Go through things slowly and try to remove all irrelevant output. Be prepared for people to still be unable to tell what is going on.
- try to deliver your material in an animated way. The smartest person in the world talking about the most Earth-shattering subject will still make their audience fall asleep if they deliver it in a monotone. Especially if it’s just after lunch or near the end of the day! It’s not the audience’s fault, it happens to most people if they sit passively all day.
- invite questions, either during the talk, at the end or both. When people ask a question, repeat the question for everyone to hear! Most of the room will not have heard the question that was just asked so your response would otherwise be meaningless to them. Doing this also helps to ensure that you understand the question they have asked, so it’s probably worth it even if the person who asked the question had a mic also.