Diary of a conference talk: the wrap-up.

Yesterday I gave the talk I’d been planning for the last few months. So, on reflection, how did it go? The slides weren’t finished until super late the night before, which was totally my fault, but I ran through a few times in the morning so it wasn’t too much of an issue as I’d already finished the talk a good few days before. It did mean that I was more reliant on my presenter notes than usual but it was the sort of talk that had a ton of names and dates so I probably would have been a bit tied to the podium (and my screen) regardless.The reception was generally good, and some people tweeted that they were thinking about the implications of it afterwards which I take as a good thing.

Some people, like I predicted, didn’t like the heavy history content (although it was an unfortunate coincidence that I was the third person to talk about ancient civilizations that day – what are the chances at a web conference?!!) but I think this long zoom is perhaps indicative of what is happening on the web today. Outside of the business stuff, and marketing, and realities of life as an agency employee, I find myself increasingly thinking about what the web is and could be. Only be learning about ‘other’ networks and industries can we see our place in this.

I understand the cry of ‘but what for us in the trenches?!!’. I’m there too. But, as far as I know, I’m not at war so I climb out of them sometimes to survey the fields beyond. So yes, I’m in the trenches but because I’m digging foundations not because there’s firing on all sides.
That said, I was at pains to ensure there was plenty of good concepts for all content (not just mobile). It was just on a macro level, not my usual ‘write like this’, ‘make buttons like this’, ‘plan this form to be like this’. What can I say? I like a little variety. (Also, one of the chief detractors on Twitter later very graciously came to apologise and admit that she realised she hadn’t read the talk description. It takes courage to do that and I really appreciated it.)

Plus, I scored a bonus point from Jeremy for referencing the Space Elevator. I’m making a note here: ‘Huge Success’.

Diary of a conference talk pt6: Into the home stretch.

I have been an unspeakably cruel, nay wicked, wife. I have dumped about 150 slides on my poor husband and sodded off to a hotel in London. They are looking very stylish, the slides I mean.

The night before talk is always an odd one. I should do another run through but I’m kind of hungry and tired so I’m going to go and scavage some snacks and then give it a go when I’m in bed.

I want to tweak more but I know if I do, I’ll get myself even more muddled up onstage. To be honest, there is so much to this talk that I hope sheer willpower and adrenaline keep me going through. That’s what we all do though. I know there are about half-a-dozen conference speakers right now all sat in their rooms, tweaking at slides. So now you know too.

Fuck Yeah High Octane Book History!

Diary of a conference talk: pt.5. The long slow death of creativity.

Today The Husband and I went through what my slides would be. I think there will be 150 of them and some are quite complex. He has been working on them for the last few hours.

Every so often he curses me, and all like me, and shuffles a bit in his chair as he continues to make my ramblings look good in Fireworks. Once done we will transplant to Keynote and I’ll add presenter notes. Tomorrow is going to be a long day and then I will be going to London in the evening.

I hope I’m still married come Thursday.

Diary of a conference talk: pt.4 Now it’s a something.

by DrewM on flickr

Today I think I finally got it all down. I don’t usually write the entire talk down but in this case there are so many names, dates and locations I completely need to have it down pat to transfer into the presenter notes.

For those interested, I tend to have keynote setup on the presenter display with a split screen showing me the current slide, the next slide, time remaining (or elapsed) and then presenter notes right at the top overlapping. The only downside I have found to my 11″ MBA is that it can be more of a squeeze than on the 13″ MBP I had but as I don’t need to see more than a bit of any of the slides, it’s usually okay.

So, a day later then scheduled (yes, thankyou throat infection and migraine) I have it written. I’m still concerned that it’s quite leftfield but it does match the description in the programme so people will have selected it over the other option(s) so that cheers me a little. It’s very fast-paced and there’s a ton in it, but I hope people learn a little something from it too.

Tomorrow, I do the Keynote tangle. I have some fun ideas for a few visual jokes so hopefully they’ll keep it light too.

I feel tired but relieved. Even if I had no slides, and no-one minded me reading from a screen, at this point I could give this talk. Two days to practice and get it good.

Diary of a conference talk, pt.3: here comes the Fear!

And so, I find myself mere minutes before midnight, on the day that really I like to have committed to a ‘storyline’ so I can make my slides, writing and rewriting.

Just did my first run through (very rough) with The Husband and it was only okay. Not great, just okay. I like to aim for really rather good so I am somewhat short of my benchmark. I have one section that I really like but doesn’t truly fit; my historical examples don’t tie back clearly enough to my main message yet; the jokes aren’t funny enough and the facts aren’t clear enough.

Perhaps part of my trouble is I find all the meandering offtopic so interesting that I’m struggling to stay focused on the main message. I want everyone to love this topic, essentially a historical romp with bells on, as much as I do but I am aware that will probably be people stuck in the room tweeting ‘What the fuck is she going on about?’. Do I accept this and carry on regardless and hope that they pick up the rhythm and see the connections or do I spell out every link and risk insulting others?

See, this is the part where I start to second guess myself and the value of my knowledge – if you can call it that. I think that people will question the value if they aren’t given a ‘top 5 things to do to your site when you leave this room’, but in this case I want to stretch people’s imagination a little.

It’s scary. I don’t want to get up on stage and bore 500 people to death. I want them to learn something from me and go away thinking “I enjoyed that. It made sense. I want to learn more.”

And so I shall continue working on this outline.

If you ever think that people who speak at conferences are 100% confident about how their stuff will be received when they get up on stage, go back and read this post again. Feeling the fear and Keynoting it anyway.

Diary of a conference talk – pt.2

What is it they say about the best laid plains of mice and men? So, I have gone and got myself a throat infection and a migraine yesterday to boot. Progress has consequently been a little slower than I’d like but at least I’ve had a lot of time shivering and sweating in bed to think about the content of my talk.

I’ve now laid out in bullet points most of my talk. The conclusion is still a bit wibbly wobbly – but I tend to revise that once I’ve got the rest down – and my grizzly murder opening has now moved to the middle and the opening is now an allegorical tale about gardening.

Next, I will find images to represent the ideas in these bullet points. I usually go for one or two images per bullet point and spring through them at rapid speed. I’ve toyed with the idea of using Prezi for this but I think it’s going to be Keynote and a quick clicker to the rescue as I’ve lost too much time to this horrible lurgy.

Right, more tablets, then lunch, then trying to get some of the timeline in the middle a bit straighter in my head. Don’t want to confuse my Abyssianians with Mespotomiaiaiananianans. Thursday cometh in but 4 days.

Diary of a conference presentation: Day one.

Roller coaster at night
Roller coaster at night

by Arty Smokes

I often get asked about how I put together, and remember, my slightly illogical and mostly rambling talks for conferences. The thing is I often get asked this right after I’m done at which point the answer is always ‘Gosh, I don’t know really. And I want a pint.’

Next Thursday (the 26th of May), I’m giving a new talk at Web Directions @Media, in London, related to mobile content. This will be my third new presentation in as many weeks and so I feel confident enough now with my own (ridiculous) methodology (HA!) to share it and hopefully give confidence to people that think ‘I’d love to present somewhere but I have no idea how to start’.

So, what’s the deal with the presentation? I have 55 minutes (including time for questions from the audience – and more on that at a later date) to present on the topic Mobile Content Through The Ages, or as I dubbed it in my usual motormouth grandiose style The Vaudeville Rollercoaster Tour of Mobile Content Through The Ages. Rollercoaster because it’s going to be fast. Vaudeville because it is going to have some theatrics and Mobile Content Through The Ages because … well, that would give it all away right?

And how far have I got? With a week to go, it would be easy to assume that I have now got a slick and well-rehearsed presentation of many detailed slides and studies with a few minor tweaks left. Er, no. And I know I’m not alone in being a person who lets ideas ferment until pretty much the last possible moment before pulling together all these ideas with some words and pictures in Keynote (or Powerpoint or whatever else is your weapon of choice in these matters) and a smattering of presenter notes. (Actually, I rarely present with notes purely because I bounce around the stage like a lunatic out of the asylum and I’d have to keep running back to see what I wrote. Useful for specific facts and figures though.)

So, where have I go to? I’ve been making notes on and off about this presentation for the last six months but it keeps shifting about as I learn new things. The comedian Bill Bailey has a routine about creating a joke by thinking about what the audience sound like when they laugh and working back from there. I guess I think ‘what do I want people to get out of sitting through me for an hour and what do I need to tell them for them to appreciate that?’

In the case of this talk, perhaps it was some sort of convoluted work of the gods that brought me here because I’m talking about stuff I learnt in primary school, senior school, sixth form, undergraduate studies and things I happened upon only last week. I have a ton of source material for this. I now need to organise it.

Today and tomorrow I am going to lay out, in a sort of structured mind map, the start, middle and endpoints of my talk and how I’m going to illustrate them with examples. I am opening with a grizzly murder, the middle will probably have a long timeline and the end is as yet undecided. I have a stack of books and articles to pull references from, such as A Companion to the History of the Book , The Printing Press as an Agent of Change and A History of Reading but the clock is ticking. Time to pull this stuff together.