Rookie Talk at Detroit Google Developers Group

July 25, 2013

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talk gwt Detroit

How I got the gig

As a younger developer, I had never really pursuited speaking about technical topics. I recently graduated from University of Michigan : Dearborn, so full-time work and school doesn’t leave a ton of free time. This opportunity kind of fell in my lap. Randomly, my boss received an email from the Detroit Google Developers Group. They were looking for speakers on non-Android related topics (the group has primarily been dominated by Android related topics). Someone had referred them to iRule because we use GWT (Google Web Toolkit) pretty heavily throughout our solution. At the end there is a link to the speakerdeck slides.

First Time Speaking

I have never thought of public speaking as one of my stronger points, so I was pretty nervous about talking in front of a crowd. I don’t claim to be an expert or think my ideas are gospel. I am writing from the short and brief experience I do have.

What I Learned

Know your Audience

This one may seem a bit obvious, but making assumptions can really hurt you in this area. I was fortunate enough to have two lunches with the co-organizer of the event, and vetting the makeup of the group was something I found really helpful. A presentations content and complexity easily changes with the knowledge of the recipients.

Know your Venue

I did a poor job of this, and I don’t wish to make that mistake again. I had the opportunity to go look and test the environment that I was speaking in, but I sadly didn’t take that opportunity. Fortunately, nothing went completely wrong. Two things I can think of :

  1. I have a standing desk at work and prefer standing, so naturally when I was speaking I wanted to stand. No tall deks were available, making it rather difficult to see my screen.
  2. The projectors were 16:9 or maybe 16:10 aspect ratio, and my presentation was 4:3 which was suboptimal. Those things easily could have been avoided with some better preperation.

Prepare a Presentation, not a Slideshow

Some presentations tend to be pretty much a regurgitation of what is written on the slides. If you attended College, I am sure you have had some exposure to this kind of thing. Slides are complimentary to whatever idea you are trying to present. If everything you have to say is in the slideshow, don’t bother showing up just email everyone the pdf.

Rehearse, Don’t Memorize

Rehearsing is good and really help me convey the right message. One thing I really feared the most was sounding too rehearsed, like I was reading a piece of paper in my mind. I wanted it to seem natural and fluid. Reading slides and memorizing has the same affect. If you want to write a paper, that’s cool, don’t read me the paper during the presentation.

Get Feedback, Early and Often

My biggest mistake. Don’t be afraid of criticism. There is always room for improvement, getting feedback from otherss can really help improve the overall presentation. Iterate more than once, and see if things are going the way you expect. Growing means stumbling, and I wish I would have gotten a lot more feedback, a lot earlier.

Overall experience

I personally never thought I would be a speaker, and am still not sure I will be doing a ton more of it, but there is a fulfilling feeling you get after you are done. The questions, the audiences curiosity, and the tiny milestone you overcame are all really awesome. I am very grateful for the opportunity and I am very intrigued at the possibility of speaking at different events.

The one thing I think that this has really shown me is that I need to get involved. My excuse has always been school and work are too much, well that excuse is gone. There are good people and good things to learn, especially in Detroit, MI. I love learning and for that reason I really see myself attending more and more events in Detroit.

If nerves are what is stopping you from speaking publicly, remember

You Miss 100% of the Shots You Don't Take

Wayne Gretzky

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