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.

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 .


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!

5 Basic Errors in Technical Presentations

Preparing a good technical presentation is a task that requires work. There are some common errors of that type of presentation that you can avoid easily.

No 1: No goal

A technical presentation with no goal? That sounds strange, but this problem appears more often than you may think.

Ask yourself the following questions: Is the presentation there to inform about a new product or project? Is it a tutorial on how to use it? Is it an advanced description of some specific topic for people who already use it? Is it to promote the project so more people use it? Or contribute?

Each of those goals requires a different presentation. The common problem is to mix several of those goals and finally fail to deliver content useful to any of the audience groups. Concentrate on the basic message you want to deliver.

No 2: Blurry structure

A technical presentation may have different types of structure: introduction-main part-conclusions, timeline, problem-solution. It is important to make the structure clear, otherwise the audience may get lost.

An illustration is this problem: the presentation includes an example that is very long and/or covers unrelated subject. It may be talking about related projects when explaining a functionality. It is usually better to move that part to a separate point of your presentation.

To find out if the structure is clear try to write it down. If you can’t do it easily, your presentation may require re-ordering.

Don’t forget to make sure that the structure supports your goal.

No 3: Too many details, too early

When talking about technology, we concentrate on details because that’s what we find interesting. I often hear comments that someone wants to dig deeper into a concrete technical subject and it doesn’t leave time to make an introduction to the project.

Much depends on the audience, but normally there will be people who have not heard about your project or they are not very familiar with it. Or there may be many who are familiar with the project but not the specific detail.

For them, I recommend to spend at least a minute to explain what the project is about and/or what the specific functionality is used for. If it’s important for your talk, include also the internal structure. However, try not to remove the introduction part completely. That allows everyone to follow.

Another common problem is to include too much details. This may be a list of all of the functions of the API when you will be talking just about one or two. This easily makes your audience lost and move to other activities like emails, twitting or even coding.

Filter the information and include only the relevant data. If something is not directly related to your goal, use it for another presentation. You don’t need to tell everything you know on the subject in a 15 minutes talk!

No 4: Technical problems

Your laptop doesn’t work with the projector. The internet connection on the conference is poor and your demo doesn’t work… Those are common problems. How to avoid them?

  • Arrive early. Even if it has worked before. That leaves you time to test if all equipment works and use alternative solutions (another laptop, skipping a demo) if the desired configuration fails.
  • Avoid the need of live internet connection. Internet on the technical conferences rarely works well. Make sure you’re prepared.
  • Have a backup plan. A video of your demo or some slides explaining the content are both solutions if it doesn’t work.

No 5: Unappropriate content

On technical conferences you have audience speaking different languages, with different background and from different cultures. They will have different sensibilities than you. Even best presentation may have inverse effect if it offends its audience because of an unappropriate joke or a photo. There are some tips how to make sure it is OK:

  • Check the conference code of conduct and stick to it. Enough said.
  • Avoid any sex, gender, religion or political references. Simply avoid them all. They can work if done well, but this is not an easy thing to do.
  • Ask a diverse group of people to review your presentation: ideally someone from the country of your presentation, non-native speaker, males and females etc. If thay have comments, review your talk.

As you can see, you can avoid the typical errors easily when your know about them. Do you have comments, good examples? Please leave a comment!