Tips for learning how to give a presentation

7 tips for learning how to give a technical talk

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Hack-A-Week is an event my team at Red Hat runs every year to encourage innovation. During that week engineers can work on any project they choose. After the week is over, each engineer gives a short presentation on what they worked on. Some examples are:

  • Implementing a feature for oVirt using Go instead of Python
  • Implementing an add-on to Chrome to help filter Bugzilla notifications
  • Implementing slow-os to simulate slow operating systems and help analyze performance issues
  • Developing a mobile app to help engineers decide where to eat

This year I chose to learn more about Docker. To start, I began reading tutorials and presentations, and I watched a lot of videos.

Coincidentally, at this time the call for proposals was open for August Penguin 2016, a conference at Ben Gurion University in Be'er Sheva on August 5. I submitted a proposal for "Docker for Java developers" and it was accepted! My goal was to provide additional value to what every engineer can do with Docker, so I researched use cases of groups using Docker to significantly improve their project.

I had never given a talk at a conference before, so I asked my manager and teammates for help. I shared my presentation with others as well, listening to their input and ideas. Incorporating their feedback, I updated my presentation and gave it in front of my team for more input. I updated it again, and practiced more and more. Finally, I presented it to my team one more time before "going live" at the conference.

Presenting technical topics to your colleagues or to others at a conference is a great way to learn and help others learn. But, it can be intimidating, so check out these seven tips:

  1. Practice, practice, practice.
  2. Hold as many rehearsals in front of others as possible.
  3. Use a mirror to help you focus on what's in front of you, eventually the audience.
  4. Record yourself and watch the recording.
  5. Check out the position of your hands, where your eyes look, and other body language.
  6. Watch others give talks to help you learn best practices.
  7. Clearly set expectations for your audience in the introduction of your presentation. For example, in my session, I did not intend to teach the audience Docker, there are many sources to do that. I wanted to provide them with a quick overview of what Docker is and share use cases about how Docker has improved my development experience.

About the author

Ala Hino - I am in the software engineering area for more than 15 years. Currently, I am a Senior Software Engineer at Red Hat, working on RHV storage. Prior to Red Hat and for more than 8 years, I was a Technical Leader at Cisco where he worked on the ISE product. My motto is: "I don't divide the world into the weak and the strong, or the successes and the failures ... I divide the world into the learners and non-learners." - Benjamin Barber