How to Ruin Your Technical Session in 10 Easy Steps

This is gold.

Recently, I’ve attended a developers’ conference and some of the sessions were a model for how to deliver a passionless boring lecture done so nicely that the only thing interrupting was the noise of my snoring. I wanted to sum up few of the great lessons I’ve learnt from these great sessions.

1. Start with the Obligatory Pointless Show of Hands

Nothing engages the audience more than feeling small when asked “Have you heard of JavaScript?” except feeling inadequate when asked “Did anyone try scaling AngularJS with MongoDB using Chrome Canary on Linux Mint?”. But this feeling of engagement quickly builds up when you completely ignore the results of the quick poll and carry on with your session without the slightest modification. Show-of-hands shows that you are down with the latest tricks in the art of presenting.

2. Speak in Soft Emotionless Monotone

Developers’ emotions have devolved over the years because of the constant contact with machines. Showing any emotion might be dangerous, and it’s completely unnecessary. Use a soft monotone that makes all the words sound alike.

3. Sit down and Hide behind your Laptop

You’re a busy person who’s been working all day on your hippy standing desk. Feel comfortable sitting behind your monitor and let your soft voice guide your audience through the slides that need no character.

4. List Facts, not Experiences

Your audience traveled hundreds, if not thousands, of miles to learn the facts that they could’ve read in a blog post. They just need it in the form of unsorted incoherent list that is difficult to remember and makes no sense. Make sure to deliver it fast enough so that they can break for launch. If you list 20 facts is better than if they can remember 10.

5. Avoid Story lines or Building up to Something Meaningful

Stories means emotions. Stories have highs and lows. Stories are interesting. Stories are not facts. Stories are coherent. These are all things we’re trying to avoid.

6. Jokes are for Suckers

It’s very important to put a distance between you and your audience, not just physical distance but emotional as well. You are a delivery vessel for facts, you’re not there to entertain or be memorable.

7. Slides are for Words, the More the Better

Lifting whole paragraphs and sections from your book is an excellent idea especially if it’s a screenshot not text, so later if the audience gets a hold of your slides they can’t copy the text. The goal here is to test the audience’s ability to focus on listening to you and reading the content of the slide at the same time, especially if they don’t match. Make sure to include couple of URLs that has at least two hyphens and one tilde. No URLs shorteners. Don’t forget to refer to the URLs as “important”.

8. The Crowd Loves Your Messy Desktop

Make sure to minimize all your applications to show your desktop with a stretched picture of your kid riding a dog on a snowmobile which you took last August. Let them try to guess what is this picture by making it difficult to see behind all the icons you have on your desktop including “Yahoo Messenger” and the folder titled “My uncle’s second weddings photos”. Also, remember to leave your Skype on during the session because you don’t want to miss any important messages.

9. Technical Sessions are a Test of the Crowd’s Endurance

So, the longer the session, the better. A continuous hour that goes on and on and on is good enough, but if you can sneak in few minutes at the end to finish the last 15 slides, that’s okay too.

10. Answering Questions is a Private Discussion

When a person asks a question, try to answer it in the most private manner possible. Ignore that the person’s voice was too low that no one other than you heard it. Get geeky and make references to acronyms that no one understands. Just make sure that the person who asked the question barely understands the answer, and no one else even understood the question.

These are few tips on how to make your technical session the worst ever. I excel at only few of these, but working on some of the others. I wish you all the luck and look forward to your crappy presentation soon.