Tips and tricks for speakers-to-be: Answering the call (for papers)
Are you tempted by the thought of giving a presentation at an event, but don’t know where to start or how it’s done? If your answer is yes, read on! This is a series of blog posts covering the art of presenting at Drupal community events.
It all starts with a topic. Often it doesn’t matter which one, as long as it’s fun for you to show something interesting about it. Does someone else also talk about this topic? They most likely don’t present at the events you visit, or present the same content in the same way. You’re unique, and it’s great to share your own knowledge in your own way!
Preparing a presentation requires motivation and creativity. They’ll come to you when your mind is (stress) free. Sounds impossible? The office is rarely the best place for relaxing, so detach a little and make yourself comfortable. Sooner or later, the ideas start to flow.
Pro Tip: Usually it takes a while for the really interesting things to pop up, so take your time. Don't settle for the first idea that comes to your mind because that's usually the most obvious one.
So you have settled on a topic. Now what? Well, you need a content structure, or a storyline. Here’s a checklist to help you create it:
• Collect ideas for content
• Prioritize the ideas
• Define your audience
• Define your key message
Often the easiest way is to start by gathering ideas, the relevant bits and pieces of content, together. You can then design the storyline around the ideas you consider the most important. Some people plan everything in their head while others like to write everything down. I’d say it usually helps to have at least the high level structure on paper. It can simply be a nested list.
Pro Tip: I start by writing down any potentially interesting ideas and associations that the topic brings to my mind. No filters! I like taking my time for this phase, as it's the most creative part. Over the course of several days, or weeks, I re-read and update my notes. Once I'm happy with the ideas I've written down, I start marking the important ones, that should definitely be included in the final presentation.
When designing the storyline you should also answer these questions: Who am I presenting to? What is the one thing that I want my audience to remember or understand? Is there anything I can remove from my storyline? Stick to your topic and keep your audience in mind.
Ideas – check, storyline – check. Now you can literally answer the call for papers by writing your abstract. It’s easier than you think, just remember the following:
• Keep it short (~300 words)
• Write to your audience
• Sell it!
An abstract is your pitching tool for attracting the interest of your audience. For example, if the audience will consist mostly of coders, you can emphasize that the presentation includes code examples. If the slot is a little longer than usual, you can plan to hold a live demonstration.
Pro Tip: The two things that my abstracts always contain, are a description of the target audience and the prior experience people should have, and a promise of what they will learn during the presentation, such as specific tools or techniques. This helps them set the right expectations.
Submitted your abstract? Congratulations, you’ve reached the first milestone! In the next post, you’ll get some tips for designing and practising your actual presentation.