First Time Speaker

Congratulations you are going to be presenting your first talk at a conference!

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Here are some tips from myself and friends to help you get ready BEFORE

  • If you plan to do a live demo, you may want to record a backup demo just in case! This way you can still share it with everyone.

  • Get an accountability buddy to check in on your progress from now until the event so it's not all last moment.

  • Practice a lot with friends in person or online to test the flow, timing, way you stand, what to do with your hands, making eye contact, etc.

  • You will be nervous, which is why practice is good, people are there because they want to see you, most people won't tear you apart.

  • If you talk fast when nervous, practice breathing exercises.

  • Remember to breathe.

  • Consider enabling live text-to-speech (close-captioning) in google slides for the hard of hearing or people who just are away from a speaker or near a crackly speaker. (Microsoft powerpoint is adding this too!)

  • JamSplat "For speakers; _always use the mic properly_, even if you feel awkward. It helps with recording (if that's happening), but more importantly, asking 'can everyone hear me without the mic?' and thus forcing someone with hearing problems to out themselves to the whole room as 'the awkward disabled one' is really mean."

  • MzBat

    • Check out a local toastmaster group or find friends to do a hangout to practice speaking to get honest feedback. Once the audience picks up on how many times you say “umm” or “uh” or “like” it’s very difficult for them to hear what you want them to hear. Practice makes perfect.

Equipment / Supplies

  • If you can, get a presenter stick (it helps you advance the slides while not touching the laptop).

  • Have your slides in multiple formats, and locations, just in case. For example Power Point and PDF, stored locally, on the cloud and on a USB stick.

  • Have a set of adapters for all the normal things from your laptop video out to VGA, mini display, Display, and HDMI.

  • Try to have a laptop that works without power because not all podiums have extra outlets.

  • Bring some band-aids - i have had mics wobble too far from my face to work and had to tape them down using band-aids.

  • Bring some safety pins, you never know.


  • Put a monitor raised behind your laptop with teleprompter software so you are looking at the webcam!

  • Have a bunch of glasses of water ready - you won't be able to get refills and you won't have a volunteer/staff to get you water.

Your Slides (if you have them)

  • Consider including your name or handle in the footer of all the slides.

  • Consider including your contact details on the first and last slide.

  • Consider limiting yourself to 2-4 points you want the audience to come away with, to keep you focused.

  • Consider sharing the slides (and recording if possible) of the presentation after. Announce that you will be doing this and how (check my twitter, etc). If possible just include a link right in the presentation.

  • Consider - have to tried the SCQA (situation, complication, question, answer) pitch method?

  • MzBat

    • If you care at all about folks paying attention to your talk, please don’t just read your notes. It’s brutal for your audience. I don’t know about others, but there’s a rhythm when someone is reading aloud that makes me want to take a nap.

    • Please limit your bio/intro to like 2 min. People can google you for more. Don’t waste precious talk time going on about yourself instead of the thing you’re there to present. Use a slide timer.

    • If your talk focuses a lot on what NOT to do to be safer from attacks, make sure you spend some time offering solutions. Be ready to answer questions on viable alternatives to the things you’re discouraging.

    • Last one (for now). Please don’t assume everyone knows your acronyms. At first mention, say the thing, then follow with the acronym. This is particularly important if your audience is a mix of public, private, LE, military, etc. Assume no one knows any of your acronyms.

Things to do RIGHT BEFORE

Clothes / Appearance

Accessibility (h/t @geekgalgroks)

  • Wow I need to up my game as a speaker thanks #Axecon not everyone can see your slides, take a moment to describe the images in the slide. Thanks for being an amazing model @ScopicEngineer

  • Don't cover your mouth in case people lip read

  • Consider adding automatically generated closed captions. Both Office 365 or Google Slides have this as a feature you can enable. There are other tools out there but we have not tried those and they may cost money - feel free to try ones our and share recommendations and tips in the speaker slack channel! You should practice with this in advance if you do want to use it, and we have unfortunately heard some laptops this can cause audio glitches with. In all cases due to the worldwise audience we encourage you to enunciate clearly to reduce mistakes in captions.

  • If you're going to share a terminal punch up the font size and use high contrast. If you're sharing a GUI drop the resolution to 1024x768 or less.

  • If you can give your slides out ahead of time, do so. That way people can follow along if they want to. If you can’t provide them ahead of time state if, and where, you will share.

  • If you include images which convey data, describe them. You may have heard TV shows being available in “described audio” well you can do the same, and do it in a way that isn’t just describing the image - your goal is to talk about the intent and data it’s sharing. This will help people who are just listening and not watching your talk (or who can not see).

  • When adding images and movies be mindful of flashy or jumpy video or gifs. If you must use them, warn people they are coming before you progress to that slide please. Lots of fast movement and zooming on slides can cause eye strain and pain.

  • Even though people say “don’t read your slides” make sure you are verbally covering all the content in your slides. You can cover more content than your slides do but don’t cover less. @JoshFarwell

  • If someone asks a question, either in person or via chat, repeat back the full question before answering for anyone who missed it. @JoeSchottman

During the presentation

  • If you are a nervous fast talker, remind yourself to breathe and talk at an even and slower pace than you think you need.

  • Ask people to hold questions to the end or a designated spot.

After the presentation

  • @jack_daniel Reminder of my best presentation tip: my first slide is always hidden, and it is a notes page for me after the preso. I get out of the way quickly after my talks, but then find a corner and quickly make notes to myself on the slide

    • Things like

      • "delivered this in xx minutues, skipped YY section"

      • "Music timing bad on slide 32"

      • "increase font on slide 16"

    • Anything that will help you in the future- whether the talk evolves or even if you never use that deck again.