Find out how we prepared a team talk for the return of the Londroid meetup in 2022
Have you ever attended a talk at a conference or meet-up and felt inspired to take on the stage and deliver a talk yourself? Perhaps there is a subject you feel particularly passionate about or you think it would be a great opportunity to practise your public speaking skills? You think about the visibility you’d get in the tech community and the praise you’d receive from your team members. You start to envision the topic, presentation and the delivery, but you’re suddenly faced with a feeling of confusion, fear or perhaps self-doubt. Where do I even start? How do I even put together a conference talk? Will people be interested in what I have to say?
Whilst throwing yourself into the challenge of delivering your first conference talk independently may be a great idea for some, there are ways to ease yourself into it. You can choose to build up your skills and confidence to deliver conference talks step by step, and that first challenge could be to deliver a talk together with one or two colleagues. Not only will this be a great learning experience, but you get to work as a team, learn from others and have lots of fun on the way! I have delivered conference talks both on my own and with my colleagues, and I now know for sure that I prefer the latter.
A recent example of this is when we found out that we were hosting the meetup Londroid in the Deliveroo offices in October 2022. Londroid is the largest and longest-running Android Meetup in Europe, with a community of thousands of Android enthusiasts. Their aim is to create opportunities to learn, connect and socialise with the London and wider Android Community (https://www.meetup.com/android/). We offered to host the event, lending our office space as well as putting on food and drinks for all the attendees, and as a thank you, Londroid asked the android developers at Deliveroo if we wanted to do a talk.
My fellow colleague Jamie Adkins was organising the Londroid meet-up and had an excellent idea for a talk. At Deliveroo we run a lot of experiments, also called A/B Tests, and he suggested doing a talk on experiments we’ve run with unexpected outcomes. The aim of the talk would be to teach others about A/B Testing using real examples and to inspire other developers to run experiments in their apps. When he asked if anyone else was interested in delivering this talk with him, I jumped at the opportunity and so did my other colleague Ed Harker. I decided to take part not only because I liked the topic, but because I thought it would be a really enjoyable experience with my colleagues.
Over the space of a few weeks, we worked on the presentation as a team including the experiments to present, the takeaways and learnings. We refined the timings, practised the talk and shared it with our internal teams for feedback. On the day of the Londroid meetup, we helped calm each others’ nerves and boost each other’s confidence, and in the end we delivered the talk as a team - and it turned out to be a great success! We received a lot of positive feedback from the attendees and people emphasised how much they enjoyed a talk with mixed speakers and a topic that was rare for software meetups. We were also asked to present it to Deliveroo’s tech department the next day, a presentation which also went down a treat in the wider tech organisation.
So what are the benefits of delivering conference talks as a team?
- It could be the difference between a “Yes” or “No”: Doing a talk with other people is a much smaller commitment than producing and delivering a talk completely on your own. If you’re spotting those opportunities but not signing up, consider whether you’d do it as part of a group and reach out to see if any of your colleagues are interested. That could be the difference between you actually doing it and not.
- The content and delivery will likely be of higher quality: There is such a thing as too many chefs in the kitchen, so I’m not suggesting you do a talk with 10 people. If there are two or three of you however - you will be able to split up the presentation and work independently on different sections, whilst being able to brainstorm on the wider ideas and main message you want to deliver. You can bounce ideas off each other, receive instant feedback on your contributions and the different perspectives will mean you serve a wider, more diverse audience. Plus, having different speakers with varying presentation styles naturally mixes up the talk, which can only be a positive element, especially if the talk is quite long.
- You don’t leave it until the last minute: When I’ve worked on talks independently, I’ve tried to use time blocks to prepare the talk , however I too easily find excuses to avoid them and I often end up leaving a big chunk of work until the last minute. When you commit to work with other people on the other hand, there is no way you’d let your colleagues down. Putting in dedicated meetings to focus on the talk means you’ll show up and be disciplined to get the work done in those sessions.
- Take on the big stage (with a back-up speaker or two): Unless you are someone who loves the spotlight - presenting on a stage on your own when you are the only speaker and the only person who knows the content, puts a lot of pressure on that particular moment in time. When there’s a few of you however, you’re not completely alone up there and even if you are for particular sections, there is always a back-up speaker that can help out if, for example, you’re asked a question and your mind goes completely blank. Despite the chances of that happening being very low, it’s comforting having your colleagues around you and knowing that they have your back in any situation.
- It’s 10x more fun!: If there is one point I want to emphasise it’s this. Rather than working in isolation, you’re in the talk together and you get to have lots of fun with your colleagues throughout the process. It creates an opportunity to catch up regularly, get to know your colleagues better, build something from scratch as a team and combine your skill sets to deliver the best possible outcome. And the best part is that once it’s done, you can celebrate together!
To summarise, if you’re on the fence about delivering a conference talk, I hope that this article has inspired you to take that first step and perhaps reach out to one or two colleagues to see if they’re interested. Of course if you feel inspired and confident to go solo, then there’s nothing stopping you! Best of luck!
I want to give credit to my colleagues Jamie Adkins and Edward Harker who did this talk with me, and to Deliveroo and Londroid for giving us this opportunity!