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What’s it like presenting or speaking at the conference?

If this is your first time… just remember that this is NOT like other conferences! It’s very laid back, very casual, but everyone there is sharp and might challenge anything said. They’re as sharp as you are, except they don’t know as much about this interesting thing as do you — but you may find someone else there who actually is more of an expert than you. It’s hard to describe… just don’t think it’ll be like an academic conference or a trade show conference or even a “normal” technical presentation… You’re there to share with your peers something that’s very interesting and important to you, something on which you’ve been spending many sleepless nights.

Although there might be 250 people in the room, do not treat it like a presenter-talking-to-an-audience. Rather, think of it as making a presentation to a small room of your peers. Although you’ll be prepared to give your “talk”, you should expect: (a) people asking questions (you may be surprised to encounter other experts listening to your talk), and (b) to perhaps even change your talk while giving it. Our sessions are very interactive and emphatically are not “talking head” sessions.

It’s quite common for people to “jump right into the deep-end” of their material — it’s better to assume that everyone is already up-to-speed on the background for your talk, and to proceed at a much faster pace than you would have expected.

And remember, this is definitely not the place for any marketing talks… you’re not there to sell anyone anything, you’re there to share your enthusiasm and interesting information about things that you’re doing with a couple of hundred friends and colleagues.

The format of the session

Your session’s leader will try to bring a few people together as a panel, speakers, roundtable, etc. — a session that presents the technologies or brings the issues and sides together in a balanced in-depth way encouraging discussion by the entire group. Presentations shouldn’t be a “lecture”. Unless the program committee has approved it, no session should be just a single speaker.

Sessions are not “get up and read your speech”, but you’re welcome to have handouts (be prepared for everyone wanting one).

Be prepared

Before your session you need to know what you’re going to say, and normally should have something to show (examples, videos, presentation). Even if you’re going to take 3 minutes to talk about your great hot new exciting work-in-progress, you should have a good idea of what you’re going to talk about — you need to be organized, even if just having written the five key points down onto each of your fingers with a felt tip pen (yes, I’ve seen an attendee give a professional talk do just that) before you stand up.

  • Know what you want to cover.
  • Organize your thoughts (bullets, outline, small note cards, etc.)
  • Plan to fill your allotted time, but not overflow it.
  • Expect to have more content than will fit into your allotted time, then make it fit.
  • Some people like to practice their talk, some are able to give a great talk with no “rehearsal”.
  • Make sure that your laptop works with an external video monitor / projector — test it and your presentation completely, and know what you’ll need to do on your laptop to work with an external video projector.


Since we don’t have any breaks between sessions (just take a break whenever you feel the need), it’s very important that you help get your session started and ended on time. Every session leader should be prepared to remind the previously ending session’s leader to end on time… If the previous session runs over, they are running into YOUR time since the leader of the session after yours will do the same to you. The meals can’t be rescheduled, so if one session runs long it will affect every following session.

So, please help start and end every session on-time as scheduled. Session leaders should plan for each session to end a couple of minutes EARLY to be sure that the next session can start on time!

Audio / Video

The main room will have one or two video projectors, allowing a person to be setting up while another person is making a presentation so as not to waste time between presentations, and a sound system. All of the parallel session rooms will have an video projector, and the BOF room might have a video projector. We’ll also have flip charts in the rooms and might have a whiteboard. We’ll have microphones of various types in the plenary room - please ask ahead of time if you prefer a hands-free, and plan to have microphones and speakers in the parallel rooms. Try to use the mics whenever possible since (a) we can make an archival recording, and (b) it makes it much easier for people in the back of the room to hear.

Please let us know what your A/V needs are as far ahead as possible (even an hour beforehand, but days or weeks ahead if possible). Shevek is looking after A/V during the conference, so please check — hackers@anarres.org.

If you’re planning on bringing your laptop to use during your session, you need to see our notes on How to setup your laptop for use with a video projector.

During the session

Remember to repeat questions / comments from the group so that everyone can hear it. In the back of the room it’s very difficult to hear someone at the front of the room facing the front of the room.

Please do not let anyone (either another presenter or anyone from “the floor”) dominate a session.

Please try to keep the session on-topic, moving, and on-time — the next session will begin on time regardless of when the previous session actually started.

Session leaders should begin each session by reminding everyone:

  • Please understand that lots of loud typing during a session is very annoying.
  • Make sure that your cellphones are silent or vibrate.
  • Make sure that you mute your laptop’s speaker
  • Please be polite… and check your confrontational egos at the door.

Originally written by Glenn Tenney.

Last modified: Oct. 25, 2018, 12:03 p.m. (3 years, 8 months ago)
Last edit reason: Update A/V notes.