Day Camp 4 Developers: Public Speaking for Developers

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Day Camp for Developers (or DC4D for short) is a series of online conferences for software developers and people from related fields. The motto of the series is Invest a day in your career. The idea is that you get to learn from fellow geeks in a series of 4 or 5 talks about a specific topic. Previous Day Camps were about Soft Skills and Project Management, for example.

The fifth instance had a topic that's relevant to this blog: Public Speaking. So I was curious to hear what fellow geeks had to say on the topic.

Now, I haven't done any webinars myself yet, so I have to be careful with what I write here. However, having attended quite a few webinars as a viewer/listener, I think I'm starting to see a few things that work - and some that don't.

I found it somewhat ironic that several of the talks were heavy on bullet points - even the one that mentioned Presentation Zen as recommended reading. While the setup is different from a live presentation (since you can't see the speaker), the basic problem with bullet points still exists: People can read faster than the speaker can speak. This became obvious with one slide, for example, when someone in the IRC backchannel asked a question about the last point on the current slide while the speaker was still talking about the second item on the list.

The use of images is a bit restricted in webinars since the slides have to be transferred across (from the speaker's PC to yours), i.e. you have a problem with bandwidth and also with image quality. So you probably shouldn't use a lot of full-screen photos. Elizabeth Naramore found a good compromise in her slides, I think: They were mostly white but still had relevant images on them. Keith Casey went mostly Lawrence Lessig Style, which is another good compromise if you can pull it off. What I didn't like about his slides, though, was the unnecessary company logo and footer. Seriously, I know who's speaking right now and don't need to read it on every slide.

Content-wise I found myself in almost complete agreement with Lorna Jane Mitchell's recommendations, including starting to sketch out the talk's outline away from the computer and the focus on rehearsing. Personally, I thought the talk by Laura Thomson was a bit basic and mostly covered things that I would consider common sense, but judging from the reactions on IRC and Twitter a lot of the attendees apparently got a lot out of it.

Overall, the four talks provided a good overview over the various stages of preparing and giving a presentation, mainly aimed at speaking at a tech conference. There was some overlap, but that was pretty much unavoidable and didn't feel like a problem. I would have preferred to hear more about slide design, as a section of one of the talks or maybe even as a session of its own. That some of the presenters obviously need some help here themselves made this even more apparent.

I can recommend the Day Camp 4 Developers series to my fellow geeks. They're a good, cheap, and fun way to learn more about a specific topic. You get a mix of talks from different points of view and the IRC backchannel adds a level of interaction that's often missing from other webinars. They're indeed a good way to invest a day (or half a day) in your career.

(Image from Elizabeth Naramore's slide deck)

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Creative Commons Licence "Day Camp 4 Developers: Public Speaking for Developers" by Dirk Haun is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International Licence.