So, two weeks ago on April 30, I gave a talk ‘Intro To Polymer’ at Michigan Dev fest with two of my teammates at work.

Okay. I realize in the grand scheme of things it’s not that big of a deal but this was a huge thing for me. I’m simultaneously terrified and excited by public speaking so getting a chance to do this was awesome!

Getting on the schedule, procrastinating, then preparing

Back in February, a call for speakers went out for GDG DevFest. Because it was for Google technologies, and we’ve been working with Polymer more than just about anyone, we decided to propose a talk. Our team encouraged us and we signed up. A few days later, we heard back that our submission was accepted.

We had about a month and a half as a whole to prep. At the beginning of April I was going to be attending An Event Apart Seattle, I decided to wait to work on prepping our talk until after that conference. I left the conference really excited to do some public speaking of my own, but still hesitated to really start preparing. How do you even start preparing for a talk, anyway?!?

With about two weeks before the conference, we had only a rough outline and no prepared materials. We ended up doing most of our prep the few days before the conference, sacrificing sleep in order to research, prepare slides, and preparing our tech demo.

Giving the talk

The morning of, we all arrived at our office super-early to practice some more. We took a few quick run-throughs and were feeling pretty good about everything, despite our sleep deprivation. We headed over to the conference about an hour before we were going to present and talked to a few folks. The presentation before us ran a little long, so we had to jump in and set up really quickly and hit the ground running. Fortunately everything on my laptop was pre-loaded and ready to go. Once the audience was settled, I introduced the three of us and went right into it. It all went pretty smoothly, save for tripping on the HDMI cable, knocking out the video momentarily!

We got a pretty good response when we were done. A lot of people had good questions about Polymer and we got a few solicitations to do more presentations and write-ups on Polymer in the future. At least two people said they planned on experimenting with Polymer for their next project, so Mission Accomplished!

What I learned

The best part of this whole thing was that it was a great learning experience for next time. As soon as we finished up and I had packed down my laptop, I wished I could do the whole thing over, having gotten the jitters out! Oh well, next time.

Get feedback early

The biggest thing I learned was that when you’re going to give a presentation, you need to start preparing and getting feedback as early as you can. We were able to give our presentation to our company internally the day before the conference, and that was really great because we had the opportunity to get feedback from our peers and incorporate it into our presentation the following day. But we could have done so much more with more time in-between!

Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance

You need to act on that feedback as well. Practice, practice, practice. I learned you can spend an eternity researching, preparing visuals, and practicing for even a 45-minute presentation. So you need to start early and iterate on your content before the day of the talk.

Speak slowly and clearly

I need to slow down when speaking in front of a group! That was the most repeated bit of feedback I got from everyone in the audience.

Be excited and show it

Smile, show excitement! There’s not much worse than going to a tech talk where the speaker is apologetic for the content. It only makes sense to be excited about giving a talk, why else would I want to be up there?

Think Big, Think Different, and Pay Attention to Details

Finally, I learned that it pays to dream big when it comes to creating a great presentation. Find and create great content, use whatever you can to make the talk less of a lecture and instead an entertaining show where the audience just so happens to learn something. Little details can do wonders for making a presentation more engaging. The visual that takes you hours to create can be amazingly effective. A well rehearsed timing can drive a point home. The presenters that do new and interesting things to engage the audience are the ones that get remembered and get engagement. Think big, think different, and pay attention to the details.

I can’t wait for the next chance I get to do something like this, with these lessons I know I’ll do even better.