Author: Michael Gasch (VMware)
Hello and welcome back to the second and final part about tips for KubeCon first-time speakers. If you missed the last post, please give it a read here.
The Day before the Show
Tip #13 - Get enough sleep. I don’t know about you, but when I don’t get enough sleep (especially when beer is in the game), the next day my brain power is around 80% at best. It’s very easy to get distracted at KubeCon (in a positive sense). “Let’s have dinner tonight and chat about XYZ”. Get some food, beer or wine because you’re so excited and all the good resolutions you had set for the day before your presentation are forgotten
OK, I’m slightly exaggerating here. But don’t underestimate the dynamics of this conference, the amazing people you meet, the inspiring talks and of course the conference party. Be disciplined, at least that one day. There’s enough time to party after your great presentation!
Tip #14 - A final dry-run. Usually, I do a final dry-run of my presentation the day before the talk. This helps me to recall the first few sentences I want to say so I keep the flow no matter what happens when the red recording light goes on. Especially when your talk is later during the conference, there’s so much new stuff your brain has to digest which could “overwrite” the very important parts of your presentation. I think you know what I mean. So, if you’re like me, a final dry-run is never a bad idea (also to check equipment, demos, etc.).
Tip #15 - Promote your session, again. Send out a final reminder on your social media channels so your followers (and KubeCon attendees) will recall to attend your session (again, KubeCon is busy and it’s hard to keep up with all the talks you wanted to attend). I was surprised to see my attendee list jumping from ~80 at the beginning of the week to >300 the day before the talk. The number kept rising even an hour before going on stage. So don’t worry about the stats too early.
Tip #16 - Ask your idols to attend. Steve Wong, a colleague of mine who I really admire for his knowledge and passion, gave me a great advise. Reach out to the people you always wanted to attend your talk and kindly ask them to come along.
So I texted the one and only Tim Hockin. Even though these well-respected community leaders are super busy and thus usually cannot attend many talks during the conference, the worst thing that can happen is that they cannot show up and will let you know. (see the end of this post to find out whether or not I was lucky :))
The show is on!
Your day has come and it doesn’t make any sense to make big changes to your presentation now! Actually, that’s a very bad idea unless you’re an expert and your heartbeat at rest is around 40 BPM. (But even then many things can go horribly wrong).
So, without further ado, here are my final tips for you.
Tip #17 - Arrive ahead of time. Set an alert (or two) to not miss your presentation, e.g. because somebody caught you on the way to the room or you got a call/have been pulled in a meeting. It’s a good idea to find out were your room is at least some hours before your talk. These conference buildings can be very large. Also look for last minute schedule (time/room) changes, just because you never know…
Tip #18 - Ask a friend to take photos. My dear colleague Bjoern, without me asking for it, took a lot of pictures and watched the audience during the talk. This was really helpful, not just because I now have some nice shots that will always remind me of this great day. He also gave me honest feedback, e.g. what people said, whether they liked it or what I could have done better.
Tip #19 - Restroom. If you’re like me, when I’m nervous I could run every 15 minutes. The last thing you want is that you are fully cabled (microphone), everything is set up and two minutes before your presentation you feel like “oh oh”…nothing more to say here
Tip #20 - The audience. I had many examples and references from other Kubernetes users (and their postmortem stories) in my talk. So I tried to give them credit and actually some of them were in the room and really liked that I did so. It gave them (and hopefully the rest of the audience as well) the feeling that I did not invent the wheel and we are all in the same boat. Also feel free to ask some questions in the beginning, e.g. to get a better feeling about who is attending your talk, or who would consider himself an expert in the area of what you are talking about, etc.
Tip #21 - Repeat questions. Always. Because of the time constraints, questions should be asked at the end of your presentation (unless you are giving a community meeting or panel of course). Always (always!) repeat the questions at the end. Sometimes people will not use the microphone. This is not only hard for the people in the back, but also it won’t be captured on the recording. I am sure you also had that moment watching a recording and not getting what is being asked/discussed because the question was not captured.
Tip #22 - Feedback. Don’t forget to ask the audience to fill out the survey. They’re not always enforced/mandatory during conferences (especially not at KubeCon), so it’s easy to forget to give the speaker feedback. Feedback is super critical (also for the committee) as sometimes people won’t directly tell you but rather write their thoughts. Also, you might want to block your calendar to leave some time after the presentation for follow-up questions, so you are not in the hurry to catch your next meeting/session.
Tip #23 - Invite your audience. No, I don’t mean to throw a round of beer for everyone attending your talk (I mean, you could). But you might let them know, at the end of your presentation, that you would like to hang out, have dinner, etc. A great opportunity to reflect and geek out with like-minded friends.
Final Tip - Your Voice matters. Don’t underestimate the power of giving a talk at a conference. In my case I was lucky that the Zalando crew was in the room and took this talk as an opportunity for an ad hoc meeting after the conference. This drove an important performance fix forward, which eventually was merged (kudos to the Zalando team again!).
Embrace the opportunity to give a talk at a conference, take it serious, be professional and make the best use of your time. But I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that
Now it’s on you
I hope some of these tips are useful for you as well. And I wish you all the best for your upcoming talk!!! Believing in and being yourself is key to success. And perhaps your Kubernetes idol is in the room and has some nice words for you after your presentation!
Besides my fantastic reviewers and the speaker support team already mentioned above, I also would like to thank the people who supported me along this KubeCon journey: Bjoern, Timo, Emad and Steve!
Turns out a celebrity guest was in the audience pic.twitter.com/GhoAavnZ8Z
— Steve Wong (@cantbewong) May 4, 2018