Where to Speak? 4 ideas on where to find the event for your technical presentation

You have an idea what to speak about, but do not know where to go? Conferences usually announce that they are searching for speakers in Calls For Proposals (CFPs, also known as Calls for Participation). To fill up a CFP form for a technical conference you will usually need a short description of your talk, or abstract. One paragraph will be usually enough, with 200 to 500 words.

We will now look into where you can find your speaking opportunities.

1. They may be just near you, during locally organized events. If the event is recurring you can visit one, check the scope of presentations and their style, and then propose your talk for one of the future events. There are multiple ways you can find such events:

  • Meetup https://www.meetup.com/ is a site for finding events you want to go to, but it’s also extremely useful to locate local events you want to speak on. Tech events are highly represented, especially recurring ones. On the site you can choose the topics that interest you and you’ll be getting a list of ones that may be a good match. Go to the event, find out if it is the right one for your speech. Then either talk with the organizers directly or send them a message after. On Meetup you can search for categories of events and you receive notifications for each week. You can join (follow) a recurring event and add to your calendar.
  • Eventbrite https://www.eventbrite.com/ is similar, shows events that are free to attend or require a fee. The events present are in my experience different than on Meetup. You can register and pay for the event directly.
  • User groups in your area do organize their own meetings. They may be on Meetup or Eventbrite too. This is a good choice if the user group that matches your speech type exists in the area. For example, if you want to speak about a framework in Python, Python User Group in your city will be an interesting choice. Check for groups related to programming languages, Linux etc.
  • Quite surprisingly, local newspapers can be an additional source of event links, especially for less technology-related subjects. If you want to talk about a type of technology usage (in education or in charity), newspapers may may be worth tracking.

2. Conference organizers may have multiple conferences on one subject listed in one place. It might be the same on the websites of bigger Open Source projects. If you know your subject (like Docker), you can easily check all related events on such site. Quite often it also includes the planned one, even for up to a year. This allows planning well in advance. The typical disadvantage of this source of CFPs is that there’s no easy way to add to your calendar when the CFP starts and when the proposal needs to be ready. Some examples:

3. CFPs for technical conferences are announced by social media too. Tracking the official Twitter or Facebook account may be a good way to learn about upcoming events.

4. There exist sites that aggregate CFPs from multiple sources. They work especially well for academic events, but you can find technical ones too. Certain publishers offer similar lists too. Examples:

4. If there is no event on the subject you’re interested in in your area, why not create your own event? Small meetup doesn’t require much work, but allows to gather the community and you can have impact on the program.

To sum up, there is a very high chance that there is the right conference for the technical topic that you have ready: either during the events just near you or official ones of the project of technology you use. Usually you only need an abstract, not the whole presentation when you submit so that you can find events for your work-in-progress.

Speech analysis – Sugata Mitra : Kids can teach themselves

Sugata’s Mitra speech isn’t directly about technology. However, he shows how technology and education can work together. The video is accesible from the TED site:

The main strong points of this presentation are for me:

  1. Storytelling: he recalls his research: what was the subject, what he did for the research (like driving through rural India), what his first ideas were, how he looked for more evidence and what he found out. All this has personal touch.
  2. Illustrating the stories by videos: his stories are full of videos of what he actually saw. He’s commenting the the videos so that we understand better what we do see.
  3. Explanations: for every subject he explains it even further showing how the education happens without teachers and other materials, just in the group.
  4. Fun: one of the great moments is the village when kids learned English from CDs and then demand faster processor for their computer, perfect!

Link of the week: Technically Speaking

Technically Speaking is a weekly choice of links related to technical public speaking. The authors provide a wide choice of materials and call for proposals that are hard to find elsewhere.

The newsletter is sent every two weeks and includes the following sections:

  • Current call for proposals with information about submission deadline and travel sponsoring.
  • A set of links to blog posts about speaking related subjects: technical (like slide usage), community. The subject that appears often is tips for new speakers.
  • Inspiration section: a link to an interesting blog post related to public speaking, but not directly on the subject.

Update: the newsletter is discontinued in 2018. However, you can still access the complete archive: http://bit.ly/2DPbiE4

Links of the week: books and CFP webinar

This week I have two interesting links for you.

The first one is about books. There are many books about public speaking, a list of six works makes a good start. You’ll find there a choice of different works from basics to specific topics like presenting the main idea or slides design.
For technical conferences, we usually submit a short proposition of a talk with its abstract. That’s why writing the right answer to a CFP (Call For Papers) is an important skill. Good abstract makes it more likely that your talk will be accepted. This Thursday (March 9th) Deb Nicholson and Women in Open Source are organizing a free webinar on how to develop a winning speaking submission. You can still register .


Easy Steps To Create a Presentation Outline

It takes time to create a good presentation outline. For me it takes one or two days, depending on the complexity and length. How to get from an idea to the first draft you can perform? In an organized way.

Step 1: Pen and paper

I use old style pen and paper method for the first draft. It allows to add items, cross them out, add small drawings in a non-linear way. I do not hesitate to return to a previous points if I realize that there is something to add. Removing takes place later.

Step 2: What will your structure be?

Think about the structure type you’d like to use. It can be the traditional introduction-3 arguments-summary one, but even better if you can wrap it up in a story. Problem-ideas-solution often works fine. If it applies to your subject, you can also show a story of your product usage and explore how to use it to solve user’s problem.

Step 3: Main points

Then write down the main points. What do you want to say in the introduction? What are your main arguments? What are sub-arguments? I leave spaces around the arguments or big events in the story.

Step 4: Examples and sub-stories

In the empty spaces I add examples, explications and sub-stories.

Step 5: Balance

After completing the first complete version it is time to look and see if the main points have equal weight. If you have examples, make sure that there is one example per point. Make also sure that it will take similar time to cover each of the examples.

What do do if you have much more content in one point? You can either decide to keep it if you think it’s essential, move content to other points, remove examples or split the big point into smaller, more detailed ones.

Step 6: Slide set

When I have the paper version ready I move to creating the first slide set. Usually each main point and each example will use one or two slides. You can start with the titles only and then add content (images, diagrams, text) you see fit.

Speech analysis: Keren Elazari “Hackers: the Internet’s immune system”

Keren Elazari covers a very technical and controversial topic: hackers. Her main point is that they are needed by the society to push it forward and protect our freedom. The video is accesible from the TED site:

The main strong points of this presentation are for me:

  1. Strong and memorable sentences: “I’m here today because I think we actually need hackers” nearly at the beginning clearly shows what her position is. “This is the rush of power that hackers feel” summarizes another fragment. Keren isn’t afraid to express strong opinions and we remember then. On the other hand, she offers examples and support for her points.
  2. Strong beginning and ending: the speech starts with a scene of a hacker able to get money from ATMs and ends with a cry: “ it is not information that wants to be free, it’s us”. Note that there are also other strong moments and examples, but the ending is for me strongest of them all.
  3. Illustrations: for every subject she raises, she has a story with example and illustrations (photos, websites etc). For example, the story of the security problem in a router is better understood and remembered when you see a photo of the router yourself and also the message the hackers left.
  4. Explications of technical terms: hacking is full of complicated terms. Keren handles the explications well and puts them in place when needed. For example, she illustrates the full disclosure with the story of a Facebook bounty that went wrong.

Speech analysis: Hans Rosling “The magic washing machine”

“The magic washing machine” is a very accessible speech that talks about complicate subjects. It is also one of my favourite TED ones. How does Hans Rosling do it? What are secrets of the way he delivers? Let’s watch it first. Take your notes on the items that make it good.

Here are my notes:
1. The structure: it goes around a (personal) story, it starts and ends with it. He also includes multiple references in the main part. I would draw the complete structure as:
* intro: story: when his family got first washing machine
* income levels in the world
* energy use levels in the world
* future: green energy, less consumption in the rich countries
* ending: personal story (what the washing machine changed in the family life)

2. Illustrations: first is of course the washing machine itself that takes the central place on the stage. He uses it very often. It is especially interesting at the end when he gets books out of it.

His slides are also important and illustrative, but secondary. Note that he has photos and simple diagrams. The diagrams are very easy to understand (people images as billions of people, energy units without any detailed value). The diagrams get directly to the point.

3. Fun: the audience laughts very often. Note that he uses a specific type of jokes: it is based on the contrast by what the audience finds normal and what he presents as normal in some time in the past or somewhere else in the world.

Do you have additional points to add? Leave your comment below.

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking?

You are in the middle of the room. You’re expected to speak, but you can’t say a single world. Everyone is looking at you waiting… Or, another situation: you’ve started your talk, but your voice is shaking and low, you’re turning red. You lose
confidence rapidly.

Those aren’t nightmare scenarios, but something that happens to people speaking in public every single day. How to overcome this? I must disappoint you: the fear won’t go away in a week. It will take more time, but the good news is that there are methods to make the fear go away.

First: prepare
When you’re prepared, you feel more confident and less things can go wrong. Be on time for your speech. If possible speak about a subject you know well: something you’ve done for instance.

For your speech learn your first one or two phrases. This will make sure that you start and when you’ve started it’s becoming easier. You don’t have to learn the whole talk (some people do that, however), instead be sure you know the main arguments and important expression you’d like to use.

Second: practice
Practice, especially in a secure environement, allows you to learn more about public speaking. It’s especially good to practice in a public speaking club like Toastmasters in your region. In a club everyone has the same goal: improve. you can safely test different solutions and progress while knowing that you’re not judged. This helps to overcome your fear even faster. So practice, practice, practice. Especially in a club.

Third: have support of the audience
The fact that knowing the audience better helps is something I’ve found out quite recently. You can use the following method: when you’re at your speaking room before your speech time, ask some of the arriving attendees what do they want to learn. You will normally find out that they are very positive about your speech, they want to learn something interesting and that they want you to succeed! When you have support of the audience and you know it, speaking becomes much easier.

Those are three methods you can use to overcome the fear of public speaking. Which one(s) to use depends on your case. Good luck!

Comments? Other suggestions? Please leave a message below!