Speaker Guide

OSS Expo

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


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. But going "doh-newbie" on a technically savvy audience is asking for *big* 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.


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. Don't get distracted during question sessions - remember, if you waste time on someone who doesn't get it in the 60 seconds that you take to answer his question, you are depriving others of time to ask questions. If an answer would take too long, ask the person to meet you after the talk.


You will have to submit your final Slide show for your talk *LATEST* by the 15th of November or you don't have a talk, because we will not schedule it. All talk slideshows will be published on our website and made available to LUGs and other organisations on CD.

Adhoc talks are not a good idea, no matter how proficient you are. So spend time preparing your talks, and that means create a proper outline, identify what you will be talking about and what the audience's take-home will be. Then create the slide show,


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 (in which case we give you another 5 minutes).


Do not go into too much detail.

Do not try to compress a 4 year computer science course into 30 minutes.

Do not present a superficial and "heavy on concepts, light on detail" talk - unlike previous years, we want talks to be practical. Don't try to give a talk simply to be a able to say that you spoke at the event. If we find that there is too little (or too much) detail (both of which are clear signs of badly prepared talks), we will nix it.


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.


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.

Also remember that a large proportion of your audience is likely to be users of Windows and *possibly* Linux and other open source technologies. You don't insult your audience - remember, they have come to learn, not to be abused.


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.

Please remember that the king of the show is the audience, not the speakers. We will do everything in our power to ensure that the audience has a great experience - and this includes scrapping a talk we are not confident of - even in the last minute.


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 speaker who can cover the matter in 30 minutes, comes across clearly, has slides with good points in big font sizes, knows the 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.


There are some topics we simply will not entertain:
  • Any topic that has been covered in the previous editions of this event. Go check the schedules of those events and make sure that your topic isn't listed there.
  • Any topic that sounds like a basic Linux installation talk. Give the world a break - a kid with a blindfold and one arm tied behind her back can install Linux these days.
  • Any topic that is designed to "bash" - for example distro bashing ("xyz Linux rocks, abc Linux sucks").
  • Any topic designed to pull down somebody else.
  • Any talk that is "flat" - i.e. totally superficial, and does not provide any depth.
If we need to choose from two identical talks topics, we will choose the talk that clearly has more "take-home" for the audience, which means more practical stuff and more indepth stuff (without "flooding" the audience, of course).

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


In the past, we have found some "speakers" trying to get a talk slot claiming their talk is about Linux or open source, but in reality being a completely unrelated topic (for example "Linux in Medicine", but the talk is only about some medical stuff, with no relation to the event theme).

Do not even try to submit a talk of that sort - if you do, we will automatically blacklist you for future events.


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