Welcome to the voxgig newsletter for tech speakers, 16 Mar 2018

As you can see we have changed our name! I came up with the name metsitaba and started using it without really testing it on other people. Turns out it’s pretty hard to spell, and thus sucks as a name. In true startup fashion, we’re “pivoting” to a new name. I wrote a newspaper article about the whole thing if you want more background.

The mission of this newsletter remains the same: for speakers, by speakers, growing a community to help each other become better at delivering technical conference talks, and supporting the growing acceptance of diversity in technology.

This week I’m going to talk about live demos. When you propose your talk, you’re going to get enthusiastic, and you’re going to want to do a demo of your stuff. You’ve seen other speakers give incredible demos, and you know it goes down well.

You are now in the “it seemed like a good idea at the time” zone.

Here’s what actually happens. You can’t complete all of your slides until you have the demo working because you need to make sure everything fits together logically. There’s no point discussing concepts, saying you’ll demo them, and then you haven’t written the code.

So, great, you decide to write the code first. Except this is code, and it always takes longer than you think. Especially since you’ll have decided to put in some fancy stuff to impress the audience. This is Hofstadter’s Law: it always takes longer than you think, even accounting for Hofstader’s Law.

I’ve built half-baked demos and left myself with 60 minutes to do all the slides, 20 minutes to get a taxi to the venue, and then present immediately. This happens.

So, don’t build a demo?

No, you should build a demo. Demo’s are cool. You just need to have a “Plan B” mentality. First, build a slide deck with no demo at all. Now you have something to present if all else fails. Job done, go home. Second, build a simple demo with no clever stuff, and take screenshots. Now add these to your deck. Level up! Third, add the clever stuff, but keep a copy of the simple demo. Take screenshots again. You now have multiple levels of fallback.

Running a demo can be awkward. You need to practice. Anticipate the switch between full-screen presentation mode and normal desktop. Prepare your machine properly by closing down all your other apps. Turn off notifications. Assume the internet is broken – your demo does work offline, right? Even if you have to degrade your demo, make sure it works offline. And don’t forget to fully charge your machine.

So you won’t do any of this! We are all tiny little fallible humans who procrastinate. Since the first version of your talk and demo is going to be a disaster anyway, pick an audience that will be understanding. Do a lunchtime talk for your colleagues, or speak at a local meetup.

After you have the first version working, then you can implement all those lovely Plan B ideas…


What is your biggest challenge as a tech speaker?

This newsletter is for you. I want it to include hints, tips and strategies that resonate with you.

So go ahead, hit reply and tell me what you find challenging as a speaker.

Email me at richard@voxgig.com. You can tweet too: @voxgig

I will address the most pressing issues in each edition.





The Future is Now [V]
Emily Rose

Have you had the pleasure of hearing Emily Rose speak? If so, you know she has a very cool, no-nonsense, relaxing style. She brings stickers to share with the audience and does a bit of chit chat throughout her talk. In this particular talk, I enjoy the way she begins her talk with a bit of awkwardness. Yes…that’s right, by way of a slightly uncomfortable, but very intentional, introduction, which was even further enhanced by the fact that the AV was not properly working. Yet she kept her cool and used a bit of humour, continuing on into her introduction to drive the point home. The slide deck becomes her ultimate tool in communicating to the audience and it all flows together quite nicely in the end.



The Magical Science of Storytelling [V]
David JP Phillips

We all love a great story, but do we really understand the magical science behind storytelling? David JP Phillips shows how storytelling adds value to our lives and goes on to discuss the “Angel’s Cocktail” that helps produce that magic. He demonstrates the practice of introducing minute details into his stories that result in chemical changes in our brains. His stance, his gestures, his facial expressions, his voice fluctuations all support his story and grabs the attention of the audience. What stories can you add to your outline to add value to your talks?

By the way, you might recognise David as the “Death by Powerpoint” guy!



Confident Public Speaking: Secrets for Painless Presentations
Susan Leahy & Jared Patrick

We haven’t recommended many audio books, but sometimes it’s difficult to find the time or peace and quiet to read and this is a great one for the car. This one goes firmly in the short and sweet category!

What You Need to Know About Speaking at Conferences [blog]
Jim Harvey

Every speaker has had something go wrong with the equipment as they speak. The hard truth is that most technical problems are preventable with better preparation. In this post, Jim Harvey outlines the 5 most common technical glitches he’s encountered and gives a little hard-won advice on how to avoid it happening to you.




Interested in the latest iOS developments delivered by the sharpest minds in the community? You’ll want to make your way to iOSCon to learn about the latest and greatest iOS and Swift technologies and best practices. If you’ve not had the opportunity to attend an event at Skillsmatter’s CodeNode, this is your chance.




Four content tracks covering Food Tech, Health Tech, Inclusivity in Tech Culture, and Smart Cities/Smart Transit. It’s a “something for everyone” kind of event, with carefully curated speakers taking the stage, workshops, networking opportunities and PitchfestNW, showcasing the brightest global startups. And don’t forget the demo floor to see the newest gadgets. While you’re in Portland, be sure to grab some Voodoo Donuts too and “Keep Portland Weird.”




Who can resist the allure of the ancient city of Rome? Especially when there’s coding, networking, and learning involved. Codemotion Rome, part of a series of European conferences, is the biggest tech conference in Italy, providing four days of activity and is open to all languages and technologies. You’ll want to plan a few extra days to take in the beauty and history of The Eternal City and enjoy the Roman Spring weather.



These are the CFP deadline dates and submission pages.


Can I ask you for a favour? If you enjoy this newsletter, and if you find it useful, please consider recommending it to a friend who is learning to give technical talks, or who aspires to do so. I meet so many cool programmers who have brilliant things to share with the world—that’s you!

Please help me to improve this newsletter – I’d love to hear your suggestions! You can email me directly at richard@voxgig.com. You can tweet too: @voxgig. Thank you so much for reading!

A special thanks and shout out to TammyCora, and David for helping to make this newsletter even better!