Thoughts: Tips for preparing for your first conference talk

Graffiti on Graffiti Street in Ghent

I have my first conference talk on Friday! OMG!

Something like 3 years ago I was asked to set some goals by my then bosses and I said that in 5 years time I will want to have spoken at a conference. I have since tried to speak at the companies I have worked about testing, spoke in front of developers at a local event and joined speakeasy!

Through speakeasy I was encouraged to find a conference to speak at. Living in Brighton I chose Testbash and when TinyTestBash came along I could realise the goal earlier.

What did I learn in the weeks leading up to the event?

  1. Don’t leave writing your slides last minute. 

Same with the talk really but for some reason I found it really hard to bullet point or make my talk slide friendly. In a ditch attempt I made them extremely boring to begin with and then pepped them up a bit.

Along those lines – don;t over crowd your slides. Personally I like to stick to around 3 bullet points with the odd image.

2. Practice!

Practice your talk. Reading notes, rehearsing in the shower. Read it out loud at least. You will be surprised how different it can sound to how it will read. Definitely read it out loud.

3. Timing.

Record how long you take to practice your talk. If you have been giving a certain length slot, which is likely, time your talk. Makes sure you have +/-5 minutes at the end so that you have time for questions or time to stumble and overrun.

4. Record you reading or practicing your talk as audio.

You can play back audio easily and make notes on how the talk went. Also once you have a recording you can share it with your peers really easily for feedback.

5. Accept the help.

If someone offers to review your slides, meet on skype to practice, don’t be shy. Just do it. It will be scary but you can only learn. Maybe do a swap session with someone else from speakeasy?

6. Practice talking in general.

Why not practice short 99 second talks for the ministry of testing and record those. Try to do them free style to find your own style of presenting. They are great for trying to present a succinct argument in a short period of time.

7. Ask for help.

I did so on twitter and got some great responses! Thanks all!

Here is some advice from twitter:


And from Katrina Clokie these great resources:

Public speaking for quiet people

Your Body Language Shapes who you are

8. Have fun.

A bit dorky but imagine yourself having fun! If you can visualise it will happen! (at least I hope so).

Remember it is your talk. No-one can take that away from you and I would like to think that the audience wants you to do well.

4 thoughts on “Thoughts: Tips for preparing for your first conference talk

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