How to prepare for a technical report

    At MoscowJS come speakers of different levels. Some have had the experience of speaking at major conferences. Someone taught at a university or taught. Many perform in public for the first time.

    We help the guys get ready. We give advice on content, organize joint runs. The quality of the report depends on many factors. In a first approximation, it comes down to two things:

    • How do you prepare for the report;
    • How do you behave during the performance.

    In this article I will talk about the first paragraph. Namely, how to prepare yourself for a technical report.

    The classic preparation process looks like this:

    Собрать материал
    Сделать слайды
    Прогнать презентацию несколько раз
    

    Let's call it “waterfall”. Many people are preparing for the speech this way, and if it works for you - great!

    An alternative to such a process is an “iterative” process. Everything is like old Royce :

    Определить цели и ограничения
    Собрать материалы
    По Кругу:
      Прогнать
      Обдумать
      Внести изменения
    

    As in development, “waterfall” is not effective in preparing for a performance due to the lack of any feedback. A good report cannot be invented the first time. In the process, changes are inevitable.

    At the heart of the iterative process is a feedback loop that is conducive to change. Just about this process I want to tell.

    Preparation stages


    Goals and limitations


    There is one article on the topic of performances , which I really like. Its meaning can be conveyed in one sentence: “You do not speak for your own sake, you do it for the sake of the audience!”
    ... you are not the reason people came to the conference. They listen to you because of who means much more to them than you: they themselves.
    Before you sit down to write theses of the speech, collect materials, make slides, think about your listeners. What will they endure after your performance? Want to try a new framework? Understanding new concepts? Code optimization mechanisms?

    Define the purpose of the report.

    Limitations will help you do this. How much time do you have for the report? How much do listeners understand about the issue you will be talking about? Will there be an opportunity to hold a demonstration?

    A report with the topic “Optimization on the Mobile Web” will be dramatically different if you speak to people from the business or developers. If you have 15 minutes or an hour.

    Constraints stimulate imagination. Some speakers even introduce them artificially. For example, “On all slides show a picture of a platypus.”

    Limitations affect the purpose and content of your presentation. Define them before thinking about the content. They will greatly simplify further work.

    Materials


    Now that you know to whom and what you are going to talk about, it's time to fill out theses. Do not try to identify them the first time.

    Write the main ideas of the presentation. Keep in mind the goals and limitations that you identified earlier.

    After that, collect material to reveal the theses. Your own thoughts, snippets of articles and videos, pieces of code.

    Write a speech abstract. Remember, this is just a synopsis. There is no need to disclose each thesis in detail. Use short general sentences. Keep in mind that the synopsis will change.

    Is it worth it to think about the introduction and conclusion at this stage, you decide. Someone prefers to do them after the main part is “settled down”. Below I will return to the topic of introductions and conclusions.

    Iteration 1: Objectives and Summary


    It's time to get rid of what you have.

    Итерация:
      Прогнать
      Обдумать
      Внести изменения
    

    Run


    Print a draft and tell your speech out loud to yourself.

    Of course, you will rely heavily on the draft. You are unlikely to meet the time frame, will stumble, shut up and move away from the topic.

    Whatever happens, do not start over. You will not have such a chance in front of an audience. Continue the story, teach yourself to get out of uncomfortable situations.

    What to look for


    The first run always leaves an unpleasant impression. But everything is in order, therefore we train.

    After the story, revise the objectives and theses of your report.

    Do theses serve the goal? Or is it worth changing them? Perhaps the goals are worth revising?

    Pay attention to whether you have enough material to disclose each thesis.

    Changes


    Change the goals and theses according to what you understood during the run. Gather material on the points that caused problems.

    Make changes to goals, abstracts and speech abstracts .

    First iteration result


    You better understand the objectives of the report and how to achieve them.

    There is enough material to reveal the theses and you have already begun to assimilate it .

    Iteration 2: Major revisions to the abstract


    The time has come for a second run.

    Run


    With the new version of the draft in your hands, chase away the speech again. You will tell some parts without relying on your notes, others not yet.

    Note the total time that the speech takes.

    What to look for


    At this stage, it is important to understand which theses work best and which are worse. What did you like to talk about? What helps to achieve the goal?

    Changes


    Usually the goals are stable by now. So you make major edits to the abstract .

    If something sounds boring or you’re not comfortable talking about it, remove it. If something is missing - add.

    It's time to come up with an introduction and conclusion, if you have not already done so.

    Sometimes words are not enough. In this case, add a demo. An example of a product or a short live coding session. If the demonstration is time-consuming and requires concentration, feel free to record a video and use it.

    Result of the second iteration


    Those parts in which you feel comfortable and which work are left in the speech.

    At this point, you already have a steady line of storytelling. With the introduction, the main part and the conclusion.

    Iteration 3. Minor revisions of the abstract


    Run


    Drive the performance out twice in a row. Observe how much time is spent on each part of it.

    You know the speech well. The role of the draft is auxiliary.

    What to look for


    You know how much time your speech takes in general and how much each part takes. You are much closer to the time frame than you were after the first run.

    If you speak longer than you need, it's time to cut back on your speech .

    Changes


    Now giving up pieces of the presentation is difficult. But necessary. You can’t just talk faster, it won’t work :) Make your speech fit into the time frame. Better with a margin of 3-4 minutes.

    Throw slides. There was no point in doing this before, as there are still too many “moving” parts in the performance. Now is the time. I’ll write about slides a bit later.

    Result of the third iteration


    You have almost finished speech in your hands. It helps you achieve your goal and fits into limitations. A draft slide is also ready. The last iteration remains.

    Iteration 4. Style


    Run


    You know the speech well. Drive her away 2 times in a row. Most likely you will not need a draft anymore, but a short plan will come in handy.

    What to look for


    Identify the parts of the presentation where you should be especially careful. For example, those parts where you can start talking more than necessary.

    Changes


    Remove, modify or simply remember potentially dangerous parts.

    “Polish” speech, slides, demonstration.

    Result of the fourth iteration


    You are ready to speak! You know your speech and can tell it without the help of any notes. You are sure that all the restrictions are met and this allows you not to worry again during the performance.

    Speakers summarize the abstract of the speech into an article and publish it after the report.

    Below are a few words about the introduction, conclusion and preparation of the slides.

    Introduction and conclusion


    An introduction has two tasks. First, let the audience understand that your performance has begun. You give them time to finish what they are doing at the moment and tune in to listen to you.

    Many begin with a presentation and a short story about themselves. This is a polite way to start a presentation and it works great. I believe, if the speech in the report is not specifically about you, it makes sense to start with something else. In addition, you will most likely be introduced to the public before your performance.

    The second task of the introduction is to outline the topic of the report and to name the main points. Thus, the audience will understand how much the report is relevant for them, how much it will last approximately, how the story will unfold.

    The conclusion is a mirror image of the entry. Once again, name the topic of the report and the main points, summarize.

    Recall the objectives of the report and place a call to action in the conclusion. For example, “try this framework” or “we need contributors, here is a link to github”. A call to action should be consistent with the report. It will be strange if you talked about optimizations in MySQL, and in the end you began to encourage people to come to you as developers.

    Let the audience know that you are done. A polite way that works is to say “Thank you! Questions? ” Use it if you don’t want to come up with something special.

    Slides


    Start making slides when the content of the presentation is ready, no major changes are expected. This is important for several reasons:

    • Slides cannot replace the synopsis in the initial stages of preparation when you rely heavily on it;
    • Remaking the abstract from iteration to iteration is often easier than slides. And even more so than redoing the compendium and slides;
    • Running with slides initially makes you addicted to them. You must know the presentation and be able to tell it without the help of slides.

    Regarding the contents of the slides. Try to keep it a bit :) If this is text, use a large font and write only the most basic. If a circuit, it should be uncomplicated.

    There is a short helpful video from Guy Kawasaki on this subject.

    Summary


    There are many useful tips on how to prepare a presentation. In this article I tried to describe the general methodology. The basic idea is to chase away speech many times and not be afraid to make changes.

    At any iteration, you can connect people from the side who will appreciate the performance, advise something. The sooner you do this, the better.

    The presentation process deserves a separate article. I have compiled some useful links on this topic below.

    How are you getting ready? Describe the process in several sentences in the comments.

    If after reading you have a desire to make a report, act! Mitapy - a great platform for beginner speakers! Choose the one that is closer to you by occupation, and send an application. I will be happy to help prepare, write. Here are a few appointments from my personal preferences:



    PS Thanks to bashmish , @BSDaemon, lahmatiy and tenphi for helping with this article!

    References



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