What's a better way to start a conference talk than "Uh... okay, so I guess it's time to get started?"

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I'm giving my first conference talk at CONNECT.TECH 2019 in Atlanta, GA next week, and I am excited!

Over the past few months, I've spent a lot of time studying the subject, fine tuning my slides, and working through the talk itself. But there is one thing that is hanging me up: the kick-off.

I have seen a bunch of talks at different conferences, and it seems like the default "start" is a diffusing question or statement like: "Alright, so I guess I'll begin."

There has got to be a better way!

What are some of the great talk kick-offs that you've heard? What do you like and what do you dislike? How would you start your tech talk?

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Hello, my name is IΓ±igo Montoya and today I'll talk about why you killed my father, prepare to die.

Is usually a good format. Avoid filler words, state your intent and move on.

Another option is to start with an interesting fact loosely related to what you're going to talk about. People love learning silly things.

Did you know that potatoes originally come from Peru, where they have more than 1200 varieties of potatoes? In that sense, potatoes are a lot like Javascript frameworks.

I strongly dislike speakers that start with good morning or whatever and expect the audience to answer back and then they're like c'mon we can do better than this or I can't hear you, like, this is a conference Brad, not Bikini Bottom.

And speakers that start with I have a lot of slides, so I'll try to finish on time lose me immediately.

 

You are totally right about the "C'mon we can do better than that!" I've seen elementary school students roll their eyes at that line.

Thanks for the suggestions: short and direct.

 

this is a conference Brad, not Bikini Bottom

Yeah, fuck you Brad!

 

The IΓ±igo Montoya rule, one of the most important rules/techniques when communicating. πŸ’œ

 

"This is a conference Brad, not Bikini Bottom.' πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

 

Probably one of my favorite talks. He says good morning, how are you, quickly then introduces a quick starting point. Sir Ken has those funny moments to break the monotone style through out and keep the audience engaged, followed by strong points related to his talk.

Sir Ken Robinson: Do schools kill creativity?
go.ted.com/aREJqA

 

That is a great talk! I'm going to set a goal to have that type of rapport with the audience down the road.

 

Without slides too. He's probably had tons of experience from teaching.

I've watched so many talks where the intro is boring, and the host energy is so low that the audience barely gets engaged. I guess is an art in itself, I've always been shy so I would probably suck at giving a talk lol.

 

If you have the energy of a billion white hot sons like I do you can:

Hi! I'm Sean and I'm here to talk about {TOPIC}; I'm pumped to share with y'all - like this cute pic of a stoked kitty!

Or if your energy is more of a low key sort:

Hi, I'm Sean and I'm here to talk about {TOPIC}; here's a nonsequeter picture of a puppy.

I like nonsequeters :3

 

I've seen that work before. Who doesn't like to see a puppy?

 

If it's your first conference talk, you probably don't want to try a ridiculous starting sentence, so I would just do something like this:

Hi everybody, good to see you all here, I love to tell you all about Accessibility and if you think that React and Accessibility don't belong in the same sentence, wow, have I got news for you. But first, let me introduce myself. My name is Sean, and I'm a software developer at Niche Inc. in Pittsburgh, PA. I love creating dynamic, accessible, and user-friendly interfaces with React. And as I said, I'm gonna tell you all about it.

Good luck next week!

 

Oh wow, you did all the work for me! I like how you built the hook into the introduction.

I may just use this! πŸ‘

 
 

I've always liked it when talks treat the talk like a conversation β€” no different than if you were sparking up conversation in the hallway. So like a comment about a previous talk, the venue, the food ... anything really that's relatable. And if you can make it mildly funny... bonus.

The whole launching into straight into a story thing is cool, and pretty captivating but since it's not TED it can feel a bit woo-woo. "It was a cold dark winters morning..." πŸ˜‚All this being said, I think a basic who you are and jumping into the topic works... I don't think there's any need to overcomplicate things.

Also: Good luck! 😁😁😁😁😁

 

Yeah, I don't think I'll be able to swing the TED introduction, but my friends have described me as "mildly funny." πŸ˜‰

 
 

I like to use the old "Hey everybody, my name is [Name], thanks for being here. [Insert relevant comment on the day]. Today I'd like to spend a few minutes with you to chat about something that is important to me: [topic, not title of presentation]"

Then I do the setup of the problem scenario of why I feel the topic discussion is needed. It works for process-oriented sessions, soft-skills types of talks, but might not be as relevant for something like "Here's a walkthrough of my coding solution" type of thing.

 

That seems like a good balance of friendly and direct. Thanks for the suggestion!

 
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Sean McPherson profile image
Software developer. JavaScript, React, and Node.js. Soli Deo gloria.
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