Tips For First Time Speakers

Emma Wedekind ✨ on March 14, 2019

I just received my first conference talk acceptance, and after the excitement died down a bit the nerves kicked in. I've spoken at local meetups ... [Read Full]
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So many awesome things in this post!

I was fortunate enough that my office payed for coaching hours, and a lot of the things i learned and practiced are also outlined here.

While everyone will probably attack their presentations differently, i like to think that the slides are an extension of my presentation. They are there to help me get my message through.

I´d like to add that if you do have a very busy slide that cannot be simplified, maybe it´s a graph of sorts. You can use the ever so important black screen. Say, if you want to draw the audience attention away from the busy slide while you deep dive into something related, just turn the screen black.


#1 Thing not on this list - DO NOT DEPEND ON INTERNET ACCESS!
I've seen countless talks derailed by slow or non-existent Internet connections. (Coincidentally the last talk I gave the Wifi was down for everyone). Don't use slides that are only online, and if you need a "live" server interaction mock the server locally or pre-record a screen cap.

The First Rule of Live Coding: Don't Live Code.  (A rule I don't always follow)


I witnessed presentations that went through this.

I'll try to make it never happen to me.

Thanks for sharing your experience Rich!


Thank you so much for presenting all these pieces of advice. Now I know where to look at if I plan to start giving talks!


I am really thankful for this sharing @emmawedekind .

I am preparing myself to write and speak, and your tips are gold! You hunt the information that you need - a inspiring way of being.

Following you is one of my best internet social acts :)


Great advice! The thing that's helped me most is easier said than done: Know what you're talking about. Knowing what you're talking about can bail you out of demo fails, you'll appear more confident, interactions with the audience will go more smoothly, and I just flat out enjoy the talk more.


Such great advice!!! Keep us posted on your talk and good luck! My favorite part of speaking is the end when you get to chat with people. It is so awesome to see people connect with what you are saying ❤️️

I would also highly recommend watching How to Talk to Developers by Ben Orenstein which has a ton of good advice and it very entertaining

This Tech Done Right podcast episode with Saron Yitbarek also has some solid advice about handling slide transitions.


1st off... felicitations! Speaking is fun, and so insightful - for both audience and speakers in my books. As someone who came from music, and having seen many many stages, I have a few items that I always keep in mind. Allow me to add a few, random as they may be:

I always do a tech walk through (before the open). which means a few things:

  1. I always check room lighting. This will always impact the visibility of your presentation.
  2. I take a look at the screen - size and position. Ppl tend to also forget to ask if it's going to be 4:3 or 16:9. Good to know
  3. I always like to meet the a/v persons in charge. They have complete say on how you will sound and know the their tech stack in case you have a particular request. I also thank them as much as I can too.

Someone mentioned being comfy - agreed. This also brings me to some dress details

  1. try to wear as little jewelry as needed. Taking off your lanyard will also mean taking off a chain if you have one, or anything dangling. These sounds can be picked up by quality mics. They may not make all the sounds during your talk, but can ruin a recording.
  2. Take a look at the setting background. This is so that you don't blend in too much. Meaning, if your stage bg is white, wearing white might not be best for a video recording.

Re: slides.

  1. I also check them during my tech walk through because: contrast & content. I check the screen to see how the lighting will affect the contrast of my content. I in fact create 2 versions of a slide. and will check to see how either look. At which point, I can decide which one to use and make global changes to colors.

  2. Live coding?. as others mentioned: ⚠️ proceed w/ caution. my only recommendation would be to take this on like a cooking show: everything is already made. Meaning, have your commented code ready to go, pre checked for errors, and simply comment it out when you're ready to run it. I saw Ilya Grigorik do this, and it was perfect.

here are some miscellaneous bits:

Try to create multiple backups of your deck. Locally, cloud, and a USB - just in case things go south.

Maybe invest in a $10 HDMI cable, so you can do some runs in your hotel - by plugging into your hotel flat screen. I have mine with me at all times + it comes in handy for some Netflix and chill later. ;)

Hit the rest room prior to your talk. ;)

someone talked about mentioning other speakers, I try to do this all the time when their content might possibly support mine or vice versa. Great way for audience to connect dots, and also acknowledge other speakers and their work.

Anyhow, hope this all made sense. Best of luck.

PS - sorry about the length. Had a cancelled meeting and wanted to chime in. ;)


"Being nervous doesn’t go away. Use that energy to fuel your talk and engage your audience."

I hate this one, the idea of "nervous energy". I don't experience nervousness as energy, it's a suppressant and I shut down.


Well Done! A well-compiled list. You are always helpful.


Thanks a lot. Never given a talk but planning this year at least one. This is going to be super useful.


This is great! I love bite-size (or tweet-size) advice; thanks for picking these out!

I hope your talk goes well!

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