My public speaking tips

I've attended iOSDevUK last week (amazing conference BTW, do not miss it next year) and whilst speakers were mostly great, there were lots of "silly" things that made me giggle and/or mad.

So here is my humble list of tips for when speaking at a conference. Hope you find them useful:

General appearance

  • look tidy: yes, the "dirty chic" look might work but can backfire; "casual office" will never dissapoint; definitely no "gangsta style"
  • no flip flops, unless you're in Hawaii (and even that is questionable)
  • at least, please wear something - bare feet on stage is disrespectful - remember, it's not about you but the audience (who paid to attend)
  • get rid of your conference badge as it serves no purpose on stage; all it does is provide a distraction point for both you and your audience
  • same for the contents of your pockets - but please don't replace them with your hands - it's impolite

Know your stuff

  • your slides should not be your presenter notes and, under no circumstances, you should simply read them (unless it's a quote)
  • equally, you should not just lecture your written notes whilst advancing the slides - makes the audience sleepy
  • spontaneity always wins - yes, you should practice your presentation but talking freely allows you to engage the audience and adjust your narrative based on non-verbal live feedback
  • move around the stage: you are the entertainer and you need to feel the audience
  • tell a story - even the most boring subjects can be turned into a story
  • your vocal tone should fluctuate as you tell your tale - again, you're the entertainer


  • think of your audience: get a big screen, position your eyes 30cm from it and play your slides - how does it feel?
  • 3D transitions make some people feel sick, especially on a giant screen
  • check the projector resolution and make sure that your slides are readable even at that resolution
  • do not complain about the resolution on stage: it's disrespecful to the organisers; express your grievances in a private conversation
  • check if the machine connected to the projector has the resources that you require; fonts are a prime candidate
  • last slide should always include a "thank you" message and your contact details; always ask for feedback
  • do not put your Twitter handle or contact info on each slide - distracts and annoys
  • remember: wabbits don't kill slides, bullets do

Live coding

  • most importantly, check the projector resolution and make sure your editor works; most IDEs (eg Xcode) are almost unusable at 800 x 600
  • have a complete backup project that you can use if things go bad
  • have backup slides for your code if Plan B also fails
  • interact with your audience - make it a 2-way street - but don't turn it into a test

It's all about timing

  • having lots of slides and material is fine but make sure you don't overrun your allocated time; skip slides if necessary
  • set aside at least 20% of your time for questions; be prepared for the "no questions" scenario - use extra slides, live coding, etc.
  • make sure you take time to understand the questions and answer them propertly
  • always ask for feedback - make sure you're also getting something from the talk

Be a good citizen

  • make time to chat to other attendees after your talk is delivered; they have paid to see you and are often afraid to ask questions during the talk
  • go and talk to people that are sitting by themselves - happens a lot with first-time attendees
  • attend other talks - you'll be amazed by how much you learn
  • and don't play the rockstar card - the line between rockstar and schmuck is pretty fine