I’ve attended a variety of conferences; vendor, OSS, education, technology, developer. I’ve delivered a few talks, lead a few discussions, and sat through a ton of sessions and through it all I’ve realized something: most conference talks are terrible. Like really terrible.
Here is (some of) what makes a good talk:
- 30 minutes long
- As few words as possible on slides, with a goal of **
- Clear point
- Clear take away for the audience
- Speaker is confident (enough)
- Speaker is knowledgeable (enough)
Notice I didn’t say “speaker must be a trained orator” or “speaker must be expert in field”. Those things aren’t bad, but they don’t guarantee or preclude a good talk. A good speaker can share their experiences and try to save others the trouble they went through, or connect through relatable grief/success. A good speaker can pose questions for discussion (extra points if it’s weird/unexpected and really makes the audience think).
Here is (some of) what makes a crap talk, and what I’ve been seeing entirely too much of:
- 60+ minutes long
- Speaker is obviously unprepared
- Speaker has no point and rambles
- Audience doesn’t know what the take away was
- Slides are ugly walls of text
- Speaker reads directly from slides
My plan to combat this tide of boring badness is
- offer constructive feedback to bad speakers and encourage the good ones
- give more talks!
Yes! I want to be part of the solution! Maybe these bad speakers don’t know they’re bad. Maybe the good ones need more kudos so they’ll keep giving talks. Most importantly, I need to walk the walk. It’s easy to complain, but I can do a lot by trying to give my own quality talks and helping to set an example.
From here on out, I won’t attend a conference without submitting a proposal. If they have lightning talks, those are also a must. Together, we can help end terrible conference talks.