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Ralsina.Me — Roberto Alsina's website

The evil of sliding

I am not too ac­tive in the pub­lic speak­ing busi­ness any­more (not that I ev­er charged for speak­ing, ei­ther ;-).

A few years ago, I would do it about once a mon­th, now it's about twice a year. But I have done it some 50 times, with crowds of up to 1000, and I think I am pret­ty good at it (but get­ting worse by the min­ute). And I have been to a mil­lion or two.

And for some rea­son, I have de­cid­ed I want to talk about it. Many of the KDE guys & gals have to do it ev­ery once in a while, and a bunch will do it in aKade­my so, maybe this can help some­one :-)

Of course, this is sure­ly the wrong way to do things for 90% of the peo­ple, so read with­out any care ;-)

En­ter­tain­ing is bet­ter than bor­ing

Ob­vi­ous, right? Well, then why are 99% of these things so dul­l?

The main rea­son is, of course, that the one speak­ing is scared (not ner­vous. Scared.) , or that he re­al­ly is a dull per­son on first con­tac­t.

Most of the free soft­ware peo­ple I know are not dull at al­l. But when you first talk to them, they are about as in­ter­est­ing as a brick.

That's prob­a­bly shy­ness. Most ex­tro­verts don't make a liv­ing by stay­ing im­movile in small places and look­ing at the same three ob­jects for hours at a time.

So, how can a shy per­son be in­ter­est­ing quick­ly? By not try­ing. For Christ's sake, don't make a joke (un­less it's re­al­ly un­avoid­able [1]). Just try to chill out, and speak about what you want to say, in a nat­u­ral tone. Stam­mer if you have to. Think be­fore an­swer­ing ques­tion­s.

Spe­cial­ly, al­low the au­di­ence to ask ques­tions dur­ing your ex­po­si­tion, if you can do it. Who knows, it may not let you say what you want­ed to say, but it will let the au­di­ence learn about what they want to learn, which is just as good.

It helps a lot if you talk about some­thing you re­al­ly know. Don't try to over­reach. I could­n't speak about C++ de­vel­op­ment be­cause I am not good enough. Sure, I could give a crap­py lec­ture. Just not a good one.

So, if you have to, stay on a sim­ple top­ic. The au­di­ence will lead you from there, but if they lead you some­where you don't know... well, say you don't, and then you both can try to fig­ure it out or ask some­one else.

Avoid slides un­less ab­so­lute­ly nec­es­sary

One prob­lem is that they will be­lieve the slides are the lec­ture. They aren't.

If what you have to say can be said in 30 pages with 6 lines each, then why the hell are you tak­ing 45 min­utes to say it? If it can't, then what are they for?

They lock you in a path. Un­less it's ab­so­lute­ly nec­es­sary that you get a spe­cif­ic mes­sage out, I say don't both­er.

Use graph­ic­s? Sure. Use a live app show­ing how to do some­thing cool? Sure. A blue back­ground with a pic­ture of app A say­ing "app A can do some­thing cool"? Yeech.

To con­nect it with the oth­er one, some peo­ple think slides will make things more in­ter­est­ing. Guys slides are in­cred­i­bly bor­ing. They are more bor­ing than the speak­er mak­ing fun­ny shad­ows on the screen.

What the heck, put some nice screen­saver hacks and leave it at that.


[1] I was once show­ing how to rip MP3s in kon­qi and asked any­one for a au­dio CD. I got one from a 16 year old. Writ­ten in huge let­ters on top of the CD was "crap­py mu­sic". I won't say what I said, but you can say your own in the com­ments ;-)