Speech at the conference: what is important to know

    Every year we receive a lot of questions from companies regarding the most diverse aspects of participation in conferences. How to choose the right speaker, what are the most important stages of preparation for participation in the conference and how to read your report so that it is remembered and achieved its goal? We decided to write a post that will be a kind of FAQ for those who want to participate in SMP Conf , SQA Days , Analyst Days and our other conferences.

    As trite as it may seem, first you need to decide what you want to tell. And at what conference, which is also important. Because despite the fact that all activities in the field of software engineering have something in common, testers may not be very interested in certain aspects of project management, and project managers will not always be interested in the difficulties of life of an interface designer. Although, of course, there can and should be exceptions - thanks to such presentations, the specialists working on the project will be able to better understand each other, but the choice of a topic from related areas imposes additional responsibility on the speaker.

    After determining the topic of the report, you must select a speaker. At first glance, everything is as simple as possible: you need to send the one who is best versed in the stated topic. But here a very serious problem arises: not always a good tester, developer or business analyst is an equally brilliant speaker. Project managers in this regard were more fortunate, but they do not always cope with performances “perfectly”.

    There can be several ways out of this situation. Obviously, the two simplest ones are “pulling up” the skills of the speaker in speeches to an acceptable level or a similar process for someone who knows how to perform well, but already in technical matters. There are still non-trivial versions of the “Solomon solution” of the problem, such as “to send someone who does not understand the problem and cannot speak,” or “we will speak next year.” But these decisions will not lead to anything good - either the topic will become obsolete or the speech will be so slurred that everyone, including the speaker, will prefer to forget about it as soon as possible.

    For a number of reasons, IT companies usually decide to send someone who is deepest in the problem. This is partly due to the fact that everyone knows how to speak in them in approximately the same way, but answering questions from an audience is easier for someone who has "had" a problem and found a solution to it. In part, companies are trying to reward their initiative employees with a trip to conferences, and speaking is not only a good way to tell everyone about the company, but also an opportunity to save on an admission ticket (note to the manager).

    Be that as it may, most often all the same it is the techies who have to carefully grind their speaking skills in front of the audience in order to look at the conference as convincing as possible. Where to start the “victim” chosen by the authorities?

    “As you call a yacht, so it will sail”

    After you have decided on the problem field of your speech, you need to outline the outline of the report and decide on the name. It is easiest to come up with a name after the outline of the report is ready. The name should be simple and concise, reflect the essence of the material presented. In simple terms, the name should be completely clear what you are going to talk about right now. If you don’t think of anything at once, write on the piece of paper several options that came to mind, cross out the worst one, write another one instead, and repeat until you get the desired paper or until the paper runs out.

    To better understand: “Searching for Truth in Talks with the Downloader” is a good title for the report. “Some aspects of negotiating with the customer when discussing the terms and requirements” - much worse, it is longer and does not contain any intrigue. “Negotiations with the customer” is very bad, because it is not clear what exactly will be discussed, and who should listen to this report.

    How to write a plan?

    When preparing a report, highlight the main points, feel free to throw out the details and discussions about the eternal - after all, any conference has a clear schedule, and in a short time (usually 20-40 minutes) you need to get acquainted with the audience, interest it, clearly state all the material and answer to questions that have arisen. Therefore, you need to choose the most important thing, and leave the secondary one to talk on coffee breaks and after parties.

    When the plan is ready, go to the mirror or to the webcam and speak your speech in front of them to be sure that you fit into the schedule. If instead of 20 minutes it turned out 60, everything is in order - the draft report requires another iteration. Reread carefully the previous paragraph and repeat your presentation.

    It’s best to record your own performance - you can even be trite with your smartphone. Having looked at yourself in the recording once, you should not be terrified and throw the phone on the floor, or, moreover, shout in the presence of the boss that you will not go to any conference. Remember that this is an alpha version of the report; in just a few hours of its active “debugging” you will receive a report that is completely different from what you saw from the very beginning.

    By the way, it’s better to tell later without a piece of paper and without trying to memorize the text. You will already have a cheat sheet - your slides in the presentation. By the way, let's talk about them.

    Visual images.

    Perhaps you have heard that more than 70% of humanity is visual? Not for nothing that all the reports in conference rooms are always accompanied by different exercises with PowerPoint or something else in the same vein. The visual range during the performance is also very, very important.

    Typically, the design of the visual series is made in the form of a presentation consisting of visual pictures, graphs, codes and other slides. The text on the slides should be short, decorated in large print, clearly visible from the audience. Remember - text slides are not created for the speaker, but to facilitate understanding of the audience. No need to squeeze the entire report into slides.

    When making slides on the first and last pages, place the company logo. In the end, you were able to solve the problem only because your company had it.
    If you need screenshots, diagrams, charts somewhere - be sure to insert them, and increase as much as necessary. The image should be primarily informative, and then beautiful. Although today the means of creating presentations allows you to not seek a compromise between these things.

    If you want to stand out, try Prezi instead of PowerPoint . This system of creating presentations, among other things, automatically puts them in a “cloud”, and you will not forget to put the presentation on SlideShare.

    How to attract attention

    But still, even the best presentation is not always able to give you what any speaker at any conference needs: feedback. How to make the audience respond to themselves, ask questions, express opinions? Everything is very simple: you need to ask questions yourself.

    Questions can be serious enough, and can be fun. Do not be afraid to look stupid - in fact, this is quite difficult to achieve. On the contrary, the more serious the topic, the more necessary are the questions that allow two minutes to escape from it. For example, ask what Steve Wozniak sold in order to found Apple (Wikipedia says it was a calculator) - and the reaction of the audience is ensured.

    Be sure to give examples from life, you can tell interesting short stories - all this will diversify your presentation and attract the attention of listeners. Cases do not have to be from your own experience: a good case from Habr, Quora or any other site will also improve your performance, just remember to mention its author.
    An important tip for someone who doesn't speak very often in public: do not try to speak all the time at the same pace and with the same intonation, like an announcer in a news release. Use the possibilities of your voice: lower it in the most important places; if you decide to joke, increase it. If there is a rumble of conversations in the room, do not try to shout it out, a confident and interesting presentation of the material will force you to listen to the speaker, and the conversations will stop. Working with a microphone is also important - you cannot hold it close to your lips or too far from your mouth.

    I would like to speak separately about the prizes for questions from the audience. If you are going to give them, then try to choose a really good question, and stock up with a really good prize, otherwise you will look somewhat ambiguous. T-shirts with the logo of your company may not fit the size of the person who asked the question, and not everyone likes whiskey and coffee. So play something that everyone likes - for example, the iPad :)

    The most important thing

    Oddly enough, but just come early. 95% of all overlays can be resolved within five minutes, but five minutes before the conference and five minutes during your presentation are like five minutes at the ATM and in line with it. Therefore, do not be lazy to once again check how your presentation works - the organizers, of course, will do it too, but you know your creation better and you will be able to notice more “jambs”.

    By the way, on the eve it’s better to go to bed early - our conferences usually start early in the morning, it is always easier and more pleasant to speak with a fresh mind. As, however, and listen to performances.

    Well, we hope that these tips were not too boring and useful to someone. We are waiting for you at our conferences with new reports fully armed!

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