Finding a good topic to engage the audience:
- Need to get to know the audience better.
- 1. Talk to organizers to learn more about their attendees, then can tailor your content to that. Things like number of people, how corporate, what they’re interested in.
- 2. Send out survey to anticipate needs of audience. Seems like thinking on your feet, but have done a lot of homework. Or even can do a survey of hands at the beginning of talk.
- How do you use info about the audience that you get last minute? Or if composition of audience not what you expected, or spread of skills is wide.
- Set expectations: quick overview for 5 minutes, then deep dive after 5 minutes for the advanced people. Even advanced people can still get something out of intro stuff.
- Don’t want to dilute the talk too much.
- People feel, “why would anyone care about what I have to say?” especially if new to field
- There’s always someone who’s less experienced than you, they want to fast track their learning by hearing about your experience. What you wished you’d learned before you started, what you’d do differently if you did it all over again.
- Inventory method: take stock of recent projects (6-12 months). 5 questions:
- what problem were you solving
- what were you contributing to the projects
- what challenges did you face, any hurdles, places got stuck, created new process?
- what did you learn and how did you go about learning it? Books/websites/classes?
- what advice do you have for people faced with similar project, what did you wish you’d known? Like cautionary tales [note: this is exactly where I got my RailsConf talk idea from for this year! It's about this time zone feature I implemented and initially messed up on]
Building a good talk:
- Identify audience persona, what’s their motivation for attending talk
- Identify takeaways for audience, what do you want them to remember
- Anticipate audience needs—share stories with friends, get a sense of what their questions were, to work into the talk before they even have to ask
- Engagement higher when focused on problems that are universal
- Greet people as they’re coming in, ask them why they’re there, write it down. Shows you care, you know what’s important to them.
Handling difficult Q&A:
- Totally ok to not know the answer to a question! “I don’t know. Does anyone in the audience have an answer to that question?”
- can be benefit, engage the audience, have them help teach the crowd
- Always repeat question — might end up understanding the question better.
- You can say you don’t understand question and ask them to rephrase it. Other people might stand up and help rephrase, especially if accent is hard for you to understand
Links to resources for finding places to speak:
- Meetups in your area
- Google alert for “lightning talk” or “unconference” or your favorite technical topic
Information about the course is available here, and you can purchase it here. There is a $200 discount for the first 10 people who sign up. For volume pricing discount email firstname.lastname@example.org