Since for a lot of the speakers TLX will be one of their first major public speaking events, I decided that it might be useful to provide some general speaking / presentation advice.

Presentations

Let’s deal with technicalities first. Your presentations should follow these general rules:

  • I can open and export presentations made in PowerPoint (the best for me), Google Slides and Apple Keynote. Other presentation systems might be a bit of a hassle to get to work, so if you can – please use one of those 3.
  • The font size should be large. Like really large! If you insert a code snippet – zoom it in 200-300%, even if it’ll take up the whole slide. General font sizes I use are 24-32.
  • Don’t put more than 2-3 sentences on the slide, bullet lists work great, but try to keep it to 5-10 points per slide as well. Better to have more easily readable slides than less of dense and hard to read ones.
  • Try to not put your whole presentation on the slides, It is very hard to stay engaged when the speaker just reads the slides. Best presentations feel more like a conversation rather than a one-sided monologue (even though it is one)
  • Please use dark backgrounds. Due to the nature of VR (like glare on the lenses, bloom, etc) its better to use light text on a dark background. Visitors are able to adjust the brightness of your presentation for themselves – but its always better to have the source material in the best shape possible from the get-go.
  • If you want to show something complex – add videos! If you are using youtube videos – please provide the links in the slides (in text). If you are embedding them (PowerPoint does that) make sure that they got actually embedded by checking the file size of the presentation. Or just prepare them as a separate archive and put their names onto the slides.
  • Use limited animations. Due to how the player is set up – using animation requires a lot of manual timing tests which is, as you can imagine, not ideal. You can still use them, just keep it reasonable.

I also promised a presentation template, and here it is!

Prepping the talk

Now with that out of the way, let’s look into the actual talk advice:

  • If you are doing technical deep dives, don’t forget to provide a lot of real world practical examples where possible. People react to them much better than to dry text or code. Add some pictures or videos!
  • Make sure to read your talk out loud as if you were presenting while you are working on it. It helps with finding odd sentences that might make you stumble on them during the actual event. That will also help you gauge a general length of your presentation so you can adjust if you are going over/under the selected time slot.
  • When you are conveying a large idea over many slides, its often useful to check if your premise (or question) and your conclusion (or answer) actually meet up well. Sometimes, when writing the text of your talk, we end up drifting away from the initial question, making the listener confused since those do not match up. Reading your talk out loud helps a lot with catching that!
  • While this one is obvious, its still worth repeating – try to be concise and to the point. While some things sure require context, it is always worth making sure you are not going on large tangents, making your audience lose the sight of the original question you were trying to answer.
  • When explaining any kind of concept – its always worth answering the “why is this important” question for the audience. Some things may be obvious to you, but not to your listeners.
  • If you feel extra nervous about presenting something – it might be worth creating some extra notes for yourself to pull them up in the overlay. Just make sure they are clean and easy for you to read in the moment, so if you’re stressed and need a backup – they’re actually useful. You will be able to see the current and the next slide in front of you while presenting, as an FYI
  • Plug your stuff! Open your talk with a brief story about yourself, who you are, what you’re into and the things you made. It helps people understand your expertise and viewpoint better

Presenting

And with the talk content ready, time to present it!

  • I highly recommend watching this great TEDx Talk that goes over the main ways to make yourself less anxious about presenting. I know it helped me back in the day. Some of the things I list here are also mentioned in that video.
  • Aim to present to the audience, most of them do what you do, or are interested in what you do, so keep that in mind.
  • Remember that this is not a performance, you do not have to say everything line by line as you practiced. This is a conversation, and you should put less pressure on yourself.
  • You most likely have more time than you realize, so there is no need to rush, if there will be something left that you will still want to talk about by the end of it – mention it to the audience, so they can talk to you directly during the break or after the event is over.

And I think that’s about it. I am incredibly excited about all your talks and can’t wait to see everyone at TLX Spring 2021!

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