1 conference, 2 talks, 3 lessons learned and a whole lot of stickers

December 18, 2016

TL;DR: Actual Presentations

So public speaking..

I’ve never really given public talks.

I’ve led workshops, with up to 50 attendees (Ansible Israel Meetups), but never spoke at a conference.

Giving it a shot

Having been to 3 different DevOpsDays conferences, I felt comfortable enough to propose two talks to DevOpsDays Tel Aviv 2016.

One was a 5 minutes ignite, about the similarities between DevOps and Kung Fu, something I’ve been tinkering with for over a year, since DevOpsDays Tel Aviv 2015.

The second talk was a full 30 minutes talk about how we do ChatOps at BigPanda.

ZOMG The talks were accepted!

Initially, I was notified that the ChatOps talk was approved.

Then, a week later, I got notified that the ignite was also approved.

I was quite surprised that the first talk got accepted, when I got the second approval, I actually mailed the organizers to verify that it was not a mistake.

Mainly because I didn’t remember seeing people giving more than one talk.

Life then decided to give me some issues

During a Kung Fu practice, I teared my calf muscle.

Yes, the irony.

This meant that I was practically confined at home, with no way to walk.

Yay.

Holy crap, I actually need to get to work on this!

Two months before the conference, I wrote a GIGANTOR brain dump in vim (because productivity).

After feeling that the content was in the correct general direction, I shared the two separate dumps in quip with some people at BigPanda, and got some good feedback immediately.

One of the problems for the reviewers was that it was text only, so I took a couple of hours to dump the ChatOps talk to rough raw slides, which I then shared again with the team.

The neglecting began

Besides the initial brain dump for the Kung Fu ignite talk, I invested all my time on the ChatOps talk.

I did several iterations on the ChatOps slides after while getting great feedback from the BigPanda team.

Getting some missed facetime

My physical condition improved, and I was able to get into the BigPanda office once a week on crutches.

I set presentation rehearsals each time I came into the office.

Initially the rehearsals audience were the target audience for the conference (A tad bit more Ops oriented), then broadened to anyone with an opinion.

Small FYI, in Israel, if you have a room with 4 people, you have 7 different opinions.

The presentation started to take form, from the initial raw to a more refined and fine tuned state.

I started to get confident in presenting the presentation.

I timed each rehearsal, initially I’d sit due to my leg condition, but later standing to get a better “presenting” feeling.

Suddenly, I remembered the ignite

The Kung Fu ignite was scheduled on the first of the two conference days (and first of the ignites).

I had this fear that if the ignite wasn’t good enough, people might be reluctant to come to the ChatOps talk.

I created my ignite presentation, and rehearsed it once in front of an audience at BigPanda.

Initially, the ignites were set to be 10 minutes, which I didn’t really get to at the rehearsals (got to ~7 minutes).

Later, I was notified that the slides were to be 15 seconds each.

Finally, the 15 seconds per slides limitation was removed, and a total time limit of 5 minutes was asked for.

I rehearsed in front of my wife, whom is in a way the target audience due to her kick ass martial arts background.

A week before the conference

My physical condition improved even more, and I was able to return the crutches, and boldly limp my way to fame.

I did almost daily self rehearsals, where I’d speak the presentations out loud and time it.

At the day of the conference

I was nervous, but sat on the front row for the talks before me, to kind of feel the stage a bit.

I was also a bit preoccupied with thoughts of how the BigPanda booth was going, since that’s something I worked a lot on setting up (and we had some problems with scheduled tweets).

Showtime

Finally, my time was up, and as I was about to start, there were some problems with the screen projectors. For some reason, this didn’t bother me much, instead I thought that it was rather typical for kicking of ignites.

I started the presentation, and everything flowed like I’d practiced. I used the feedback I got from the BigPanda team and some good advice from my wife, and it felt good.

I felt like the presentation had a good flow, I was confident, didn’t speak to fast and foremost felt rather natural and at ease.

People were amused by the jokes, especially with the final slide, and I even got off with some shameless self promotion, both for the ChatOps talk the day after, and for the BigPanda booth.

I had quite some luck, since one of the keynote speakers Charity Majors was delayed due to a surrealistic cab drive, and Avishai Ish-Shalom, which was basically the pun for the last slide, did his keynotes right before my ignites instead of the day after.

Post Balmer Peak

One of the quotes from the Kung Fu presentation was the following:

Get cocky => Get sloppy

Boy would that come back to haunt me.

Day two, day of the ChatOps talk

My ChatOps talk was one of 3 possible tiers (another talk and an ongoing workshop), and was suppose to be the last talk before lunch.

My last slide’s MEME even referenced lunch, as I figured people would be wanting to get to lunch as quick as possible.

Due to some heavy rain in the morning, the schedule was delayed a bit.

I dm’ed one of the organizers in the matter, and it was decided to postpone my talk (the entire 3 tier block) and do lunch earlier.

I thought it wouldn’t matter much, and started to think of puns to say in the presentation due to this change.

Showtime again

I started off the talk with “Funny story”, showing the last slide and explaining the lunch pun.

Needless to say that people didn’t find it hilarious, and this really rocked my cocky confidence.

I continued with the talk, but I quickly noticed that my voice had gone up a tone, to an over-excited pitch, and that I was talking WAAAAY to fast.

It took me a couple of slides to get myself together and talk normal again.

The puns on the slides felt as if I was trying to force them, and I didn’t get the laughter I was expecting.

I continued with the presentation, and drew strength from the content which I knew was good (notice good, not funny), and was able to finish in a more natural flowing manner.

In the Q&A session at end of the presentation, I had some really good questions asked, and felt that there people were interested.

Lessons learned

Know thy talk, not all is comedy

Comic relief is great, but not mandatory. In the case of my second talk, I should have kept to the content instead of trying to be funny.

Iterate and refine your materials

The feedback I got from the BigPanda team and my wife was priceless. Had I not listened to those, the second talk would have been a total crash and burn.

Don’t get cocky

Confidence is good, overconfidence sucks, and leads to TMI (To much improvising).

To Summarize

I had a blast, and I’ll definitely do more public talks from now on.

BigPanda’s booth was a big success as well, our shiny new stickers were DA THING!

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Videos

Kung Fu:

ChatOps:

Presentations

Kung Fu Ignite:

ChatOps Talk:

I’d like to thank

The BigPanda team (Shahar, Ofer, Caduri, Hagai, Noa, Roman and even my favorite douche Itamar).

My wife for staying awake while I bore her with DadOps puns.

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