Preparing to Speak

I’ve been revisiting my presentations on ASP.NET MVC and NuGet, as well as preparing my dojo-style course on web development (a deep dive session in MVC).  I’ve got two engagements booked this fall (SDEC in September and PrDC in November) and want to make sure I knock them out of the park.

As such, I’ve reviewed my notes on what technical content didn’t pan out, which jokes worked well, projects that I forgot to reset and the like. 

Here are some of the things that I try to do during a presentation, and something I’m working to improve in my existing talks:

  • Ride a theme. Creating a story arc that helps you tie content together keeps the audience engaged and allows for you to keep building on past references. If you’re trying to pick a metaphor for the work you’re doing, don’t force it. Jokes become fluid in this space too, especially if you can back-reference.
  • Use humor.  Sometimes you can plan for this, sometimes it just happens. I got hit with a funny and only realized it once when it was up on the screen in front of the whole room. Content+Context can sometimes be hilarious.  The other thing is that laughter draws folks in. If someone’s drifted off and they hear everyone laughing, they want to get right back into listening because they feel like they’ve missed something.
  • If you use humor, land it.  Don’t just make a joke, but make a relevant joke, and then use that to drive home an important point.  People are listening after you make them laugh, so plan to use that attentiveness.
  • Pay dividends.  Remember that your audience is investing their time in you and that they do have expectations.  Help them fulfill those by creating appropriate abstracts (to help them plan which session to attend), delivering content that is worth their time (to help them learn), equip them with things they can use right away (to get their buy-in) and follow up with post-talk support, code, links etc. (to provide participants with a landing).


I’ve dug up some posts that have been helpful in that planning and cover a lot of the bases for things you want to do when addressing a technical audience.  Below are some tips of some of my favorite presenters that I have seen in-person and really admire their effort and the skill with which they execute when presenting.

Scott Hanselman


Phil Haack


Some other great tips come from Kirk Evans, Venkatarangan and Jon Galloway.  Finally, head over to Presentation Zen and watch some great presentations. Lots of material there.