Giving a Tech Talk – Part 1/3: Create a Story

A great talk can seem very natural and off-the-cuff when seated in the audience. But, behind the scenes, most speakers put a lot of effort into preparing a talk.

Preparation is everything, especially for those of us that aren’t natural public speakers. How you prepare will differ based on your strengths, weaknesses, and personality. Over the last few years I’ve found a process that works well for me, I hope that sharing it will be helpful to others.

There are three stages I use to develop a talk, each is covered in this three part series.

Part 1: Create a Story

Think about what you want attendees to take away from the talk. Mine is often very general. Something like; “I want attendees to be excited about the latest release because they can see how the new features will help them do their jobs more easily”.

A good talk isn’t just a bunch of demos in any order, it tells a story. You order and group content to be easy to follow, and achieve the purpose of your talk.

Every story has a beginning, middle, and end. Here is what that looks like in a demo heavy technical talk.

The Beginning

Start with a few slides to set context for the talk.  I limit this to around 5 slides and 5 minutes. Here are common things to include:

  • Agenda – Tell folks what you’re going to cover. If they know the bulk of your talk will be demos, then it’s easier to stay focused for a few slides.
  • Setting Expectations – If this is a level 100 talk, tell folks so that they aren’t expecting level 300 demos (and vice versa). This will reduce negative reactions from folks who are in the wrong level of talk.
  • What is The Product – There is probably someone in the room who doesn’t know what it is, and some folks who could benefit from hearing it articulated succinctly. Spend 30-60sec to help these folks come along for the ride.
  • Project Status – What release are we up to? What is next? This helps put your demos into the context of the product roadmap.

Image: Example of a Version History slide

The Middle

I spend as much time as possible on demos that show the product in action.

Keep tying each demo back to the beginning (what release is this feature in, etc). If you have demos from multiple releases, then group them based on release.

I have a title slide in the deck for each demo. Showing this helps break up each demo and give folks a chance to regroup before the next one.

Image: A set of demos to show the EF Core 2.0 release


The End

Recap what you showed and where to go next to learn more. Folks always appreciate a link to source code from your demos, and the deck you presented.

Image: Example of a Where to Next slide


Part 2: Build Demos >>