Giving my first talk

On wednesday I gave a talk at the PHP Usergroup Munich. If you follow me on Twitter you’ve probably read about it. It was the first talk of this kind that I gave and I liked it. There is no video recording of it, but you can still have a look at the slides on speaker deck.

I want to share some personal thoughts not only on the talk itself but on the whole process behind it. Mostly because the whole topic of public speaking interests me for quite some time now.

First off it definitely was some out-of-comfort-zone kind of thing for me. I played with the idea of giving a talk here and then as I liked to do presentations at university. But I never settled on particular topic, let alone actually doing it. This time Scandio hosted the event and there was the chance to fill the open spot. Perfect chance to make something from it.

The talk itself was not focused on code but more a lessons-learned from the project I have been on for the last year. I found this to be the most challenging part: To frame the rather abstract concepts and ideas of how our system works in a short presentation while also trying to get into technical interesting topics. And - at least according to the feedback I got - I managed to do it reasonably well.

The Preparation

While preparing for the talk, I watched Zach Holman’s Talk on Talks again. Of course only after giving the talk I would understand some of his points.

So I had a rough outline and a first draft about two weeks prior to the event. But I only finished the presentation a few hours before it. I shuffled bits and pieces around until a few hours before the meetup. Most of the content was created on the weekend leading up to it. I just felt easier to sit down at home with a cup of idea rather than trying to force it while being at the office. I would definitely try to get it settled earlier the next time.

Giving the Talk

I was in the last spot after two more code-related talks. This circumstance allowed me to reference the stuff that has been presented earlier. Nonetheless I was a bit nervous, not to a negative extent, but enough to find myself rushing through some parts where I had a different idea of what to say.

My only sort-of test runs happened the evening before, and it lead to a few changes in the structure. For the next time, I would definitely try to do such iterations way more often. Overall it helped to just talk about it, because often enough I realized that something wouldn’t work. In most cases some information was missing to follow my line of thoughts. Or I would overcomplicate things. While I’m sure there still were enough rough parts in the presentation, I was hopefully able to eliminate the worst ones beforehand.

After the talk

Once I closed the lid of my laptop I felt some sort of relief and pride at the same time. But until then there were a few interesting questions from the audience, even technical ones which I hoped for. The people were nice and it was a good end to the day to discuss some other stuff over a beer afterwards.

Bottom line

It was a fun and educational thing to do for me. I will definitely try do it again. Overall it helped to bring all the information into a proper strcuture to get back to what we’re actually trying to achieve in this project. Also it’s now way easier to explain my friends and family what I’m doing all day long. I love this refreshed perspective and I’ll try to take it as a learning from this whole thing: Go back to the start and try to give a proper presentation of things to involved people, just so I get a clearer understandin myself.