Speaker Guide

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This is a set of guidelines that I have been ramming home to members of the various event lists (IT.COM, Bang!inux, Linux Bangalore) for years. -- Atul Chitnis

Audiences:

Be clear about what kind of audience you are planning to address. Going hyper-tech on a poor unsuspecting non-tech audience can get you into trouble.

Audience Size:

Audience could be anything between 7 to 700 people in the hall. No matter what size the audience is - give it your best.

Questions

If you have a huge audience, you will *not* take questions during the talk (anything over 20 is huge). Instead, questions can be taken *after* the talk.

Points:

Have the points clearly listed (in your slide show which you will have to submit by the 25th of November) or you don't have a talk. Adhoc talks are not a good idea, no matter how proficient you are.

Timing:

30 minutes talk time is ideal. You don't get breaks - you need to vary tempo, points, and interesting stuff. Point to Remember - at the 45 minute mark, we will switch off your mike and drag you (kicking and screaming) off the stage, unless we see that the audience is still with you.

Detail:

Do not go into too much detail. Do not try to compress a 4 year computer science course into 30 minutes.

Slides:

Points, not explanations. The whole idea behind your talk is that *you* will give the explanation. If you make slides with lots of text on it in terms of explanation, send them to us, we will put them on the web site and cancel your talk. ;-)

On an average, assume 5 minutes per slide. A 30 minute talk would have no more than 6-10 slides. Avoid slide builds, fancy transitions and stuff Powerpoint pushes as "features". They are basically to cover up for the fact that your talk has no real content and your slides are lousy - they impress no one, and slow you down.

Stage fright:

Everyone gets it. Including professional speakers. The difference between a pro and a chicken is that the chicken chickens out in the last moment, the pros say "worst case, they'll hate me" and proceed with their talk.

Hotheads:

A Speaker who supports an argument with "Windows sux" is history. Make statements you *can* support with facts. If you say "Linux is 10 times faster than Windows", be prepared to *prove* it with references to actual tests.

Practice:

If you cannot stand the thought of standing before a mirror and talking your entire presentation through, you have no chance on earth of surviving an audience. Practice, practice, practice, and then (when you think you got it right) have a friend/brother/sister adept at heckling sit in front of you and ask questions throughout your talk. See if you can stay on track, or lose it completely. Chances are the latter - which means more practice.

Reactions:

If you expect people to line up to get your autograph after the talk or throw their underwear at you, please look for me and I may have a bridge to sell you (only lightly used). Don't overexpect reactions.

A good reaction is that they don't tar and feather you. A better reaction is mild applause. A *really* good reaction is lots of questions. If you don't get questions (especially if it is a technical talk), it does not mean that you did well and they understood everything - it means that you probably weren't clear enough and they didn't understand a word you said. Or they just fell asleep because you talked too long.

Remember - to an audience, a guy who can cover the matter in 30 minutes, comes across clearly, has slides with good points in big font sizes, knows his subject and *respects the audience* is a hero.

The idea is to come across as competent people spreading useful knowledge. If someone walks out of the hall saying "I learned something today", you have done more for Linux than a thousand installs ever will.

Slide Specifications:

  • No more than 5 points per slide
  • No more than 1 line of text per point
  • No less than 28 point text
  • No more than 1 font in points
  • Go easy on colours - red on green background is *bad*
  • Try and include the event logo in your slides
  • Have a last slide with contact information for you
  • Avoid builds and transitions
  • 5 minutes per slide is good
  • 5 slides per minute is bad

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