I am already creeping up on the two week mark since I held my presentation at Day of the programmer in Jönköping.
I am grateful there was a good amount of time between being accepted as a speaker and being asked to keynote. The combined surprise would probably have been too much to get all at once.
To avoid unnecessary tension, I will spoil one thing right away: it all went well. I am really happy about what I presented and how I managed to deliver it, and I have got positive feedback from others as well. I feel I managed to say some interesting things, and others seem to agree.
How did it happen?
It all started, as far as I can remember, with an email from the conference organizers to Kodsnack's email address, asking if either of us would be interested in submitting a talk for the conference. As usual, I considered myself the least likely person to qualify, but quite unusually I actually had an idea to submit. At some earlier point during a longer run - I am not sure if it was weeks, months or even years before, I had started thinking about what a priviliged position we as programmers often find ourselves in, and I had entertainted myself with thinking about it as the final revolution of the workers seizing control. It was a very clear and entertaining starting point which could go in many different directions, so I happily submitted and was excited to find myself being accepted a while later.
Slide by slide
Following my usual way of structuring thoughts, I started by writing down a lot of text. Long paragraphs as well as random one-off ideas and comments, they all went into a single text file. Among them were also interesting links, headline ideas, and practical questions (will I have access to the room early? Does it have the kind of adapter I need?). Once it became clear I had been accepted and it was time to start preparing in a more organized fashion, I switched over to Keynote, dropped all my text into the presenter notes and tried to roughly split everything into one topic or thought per slide.
Then, as soon as I could bring myself to it, I sat down, turned on a microphone and recorded myself talking through everything from start to finish.
This gave me some really useful pieces of information:
- The ideas felt good said out loud
- I had apparently mimiced my style of talking decently when making notes, much of the text had a good flow read out loud
- While the parts were good, there was a lot of work left to be done to get a natural throughline for the entire presentation
- I had almost 20% too much material, going seriously over my allotted time
For the most part, these were all good results. My main worries are normally having plain too little, or too few things of interst to say, and this reading proved that I did not need to worry about that. The overall flow and line was not unexpected, as my initial idea gathering had been a lot about noting everything which felt remotely related to the topic form any number of perspectives, and it felt good to know I could cut away things rather drastically if needed to find a flow and still have more than enough to say.
I made some satisfying cuts, shuffled things around, and generally tried to beat material into a better shape. It all came along slowly but surely, the final pieces not landing until two days before the presentation. On that Sunday, I took a break from editing, went for a run, and discovered the whole wrap-up with general problems and specific solutions. I came home, wrote that down, and made another recording which not only had the thread I had been looking for, but also clocked in at exactly the right time.
I was still nervous before stepping onto the stage, but it was pretty much all positive nerves. Excitement to get going, to see how it would go. My main question after things clicked on Sunday was whether I would manage to keep the tone I imagined for various parts, especially the rather theatrical beginning. A great advantage to that beginning was that it only took a sentence or two to feel that yes, this was working. It is a Unix system, I know this. (Or a podcast with a better script and more preparation, in my case.)
I felt completely wrung out, but happy, afterward. I got several positive comments afterward, and more importantly several good discussions about things I mentioned. People picked up different things, and it was exciting to hear which things and in what way.
As I write this, I just got the collected feedback from the participants. Yes, my heart jumped a bit seeing the link, but it was nice too. I find myself able to agree with the negative feedback as well. It has to be a good thing when critics see similar room for improvement as you do yourself.
Next time: more breathing room.
A clearer thread.
And most likely even more read-throughs with a microphone.
(Music for the last writing session: Sayonara wild hearts)