Technical Presentations

Planning them, giving them, acing them

About Me

I represent RMN at technical conferences by being invited to give technical presentations.

I've spoken at 5 this year, with 7+ more to go.

I've also spoken at local user groups, and here for our internal tech talk series.

Steps to giving a technical presentation

  1. Do your research
  2. Plan your presentation
  3. Write your slides
  4. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse
  5. Give your talk

Three vectors of a presentation

  1. Message
  2. Timing
  3. Style

Your message

Your message is what the audience takes away at the end of the presentation.

You need a clear, effective message to make a great technical presentation.

Your timing

This isn't how quickly you speak:

it's about the arrangement of your ideas,

the flow of your arguments,

and the effectiveness of that arrangement and flow.

Your Style

Your style is what makes you memorable.

This is things like cadence, projecting, expression.

This part's the hardest to learn, but gives you the biggest payoff.

Do some research

Three things to keep in mind here:

  1. Your topic
  2. Your audience
  3. Presentation Conditions


  • Why do I care about this topic?
  • What do I want the audience to take away from this?
  • Do I have a demo? Code to show?

These affect your timing and message


  • Who is your audience?
  • What do they care about?
  • What might they want to learn from you?

These affect your style and message

Presentation Conditions

  • Can you move while you speak?
  • Do you need to bring your own equipment?
  • Is this a large¬†amphitheater, or a small conference room?¬†

These affect your timing and style

Plan your talk

A couple of steps involved here

  1. Write your outline
  2. Write your notes
  3. Add your style

1. Write your outline

  • Estimate how long you need to spend on each bullet point
  • Prioritize each bullet as you plan
    • Too long? You know which points to throw out first.
  • Check your research!

Some timing advice

  • Prevent tangents: make your bullet points super-focused, and follow your notes
  • Need an estimate for demos?
    • Practice three times
    • Time the third practice
    • That time x 1.5 = estimate demo time

Sample presentation flow

  • Introduction
  • The problem
  • Your solution
  • Why it works part 1
  • Why it works part 2
  • Why it works part 3
  • How did you build it
  • Demo
  • Conclusion: re-state how you solved the problem

2. Write your notes

  • Each outline bullet should have notes
  • What do you want to say that won't be on a slide?
  • Put most of your content here
    • Slides are meant to be sparse!

3. Add some style

Any funny anecdotes? Good stories that happened?

What technical difficulties did you/your team face?

Pieces of information like these make you more relatable, and your talk more memorable.

Write your slides

  • < 30 words per slide, usually
  • Pictures > words
  • Use large text
  • Light background & dark text
  • Follow your outline
  • remember your message
  • think of your audience.

Personal style in slides

You can, and should, adapt your slides to your personal style.

But keep readability, and audience, in mind.

This includes things like GIFs, visual jokes, etc.

Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse

  • Don't rehearse alone
  • Replicate the presentation conditions if you can
  • Rehearse as many times as you can
  • In front of as many different people as you can
    • If you can get someone similar to your audience, ++!
  • Take constructive feedback seriously

Giving your talk

  • Don't focus on what can go wrong
  • Talk slower than you think you need to
  • Having a water bottle helps to take pauses
  • Use a timer, but don't fixate
  • Avoid tangents

Handling Questions

  • ALWAYS repeat the question
  • If it takes > 30 seconds, point asker at a resource
  • If you don't know: "That's a great question. I don't know."

A note on style

Style is not something you can force.

If you're not naturally a joke-y, funny speaker, don't force it.

You don't have to be funny to be memorable.

Most of all, just be yourself when it comes to style.

Thanks for listening!

On Speaking

By kperch

On Speaking

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