IgniteSydney [Digital]

A couple of weeks ago, I spoke at IgniteSydney - Digital about the pros and cons of design frameworks. This is the first talk where I put my hand up for it and submitted a talk proposal. I’m not someone who loves public speaking. To be honest, I actually don’t like preparing for them. But I decided to do one for IgniteSydney because

  • It seemed like a good challenge
  • I thought of a topic
  • There are always less female speakers so I wanted to do my part

Why did it seem like a good challenge? Well, IgniteSydney’s presentation format is a little different: 5 minutes talk, 20 slides, 15 seconds per slide. So yes, the presenter doesn’t get to control the slides. What I didn’t realise was that you don’t get presenter notes AND what’s the upcoming slide.

Fitting content into a strictly 5 minute slot is hard enough, but to have no control over your slides, that’s just scary and makes it ten times harder. But it really forces you to be very precise with your message. And even if you slip a bit in your talk, you would have known it so well that it’s easy for you to recover.

So how did I prepare for it? Like any talks, I jotted down some notes first, with points I wanted to cover. Then I picked out some key ones I wanted to make slides for. I had no idea how long 15 seconds was, so I tried to go through the talk with the slides I’ve got just to get a rough idea of timing. I figured out 15 seconds was roughly 1 long sentence / 2-3 short sentences for me at a particular pace. From that, I worked out what the rest of my slides were, keeping in mind the timing. Once I had all the slides, there were lots of practice, tweaking, moving slides around, re-doing slides, more practice… just to make sure the timing was right and that the flow was good.

I don’t think I’ve practiced a talk as much as I did with this one. I learnt that I had to somewhat improvise and adapt: if I spoke a bit faster at one of the slides, I would need to slow down at the next one. It took a lot of practicing to figure out the timing, remembering what I needed to say and what the upcoming slide is.

Then came the night. I was a bit nervous but managed to calm myself leading up to it. When it was my turn, I stepped onto the stage, then 3, 2, 1… I began my talk. I was a little shaky at the start but once I got into the rhythm of it, everything just flew nicely. It went fairly well overall. There were a couple of spots where I had a micro mental blank but I recovered.

I’m really glad I gave IgniteSydney a go. I didn’t realise how much I relied on speaker notes and being able to see the upcoming slide until I did this talk. But it really forced me to know my talk extremely well and to keep my points really concise. It was probably the most challenging talk I’ve prepared for, but I think the things I learnt from this experience will make my future talks better.

Video of my talk: