Front End Small Talk - 7 minute code and life stories. A monthly meetup in Portland, Oregon

What should I talk about?

5 tips for choosing a topic for your next tech talk.

Joe Seifi -

When I started the Front End Small Talk, one of its main objectives was to help developers feel more comfortable giving a talk. Giving a talk is a wonderful gift to both you and the audience. But it can be intimidating to jump right into being a speaker. Small talks are a great way to get started in the shallow end of the speaking pool. There are only 7 slides, and your time is limited to 7 minutes.

Infographic - What should I talk about? - 5 tips for choosing a topic for your next talk

Now, I’m often asked what should I talk about Joe? So I’ve prepared an infographic to guide you when you are trying to determine what to talk about.

Tip #1 - Start Small

If you’ve never given a talk, start small. Just like learning to ride a bike or swimming, you just have to start. As they say... You can’t begin, until you begin! Start with small talks and work your way towards bigger talks. You don’t necessarily need to dig super deep or blow everyone’s mind to do a talk. For example covering the basics of say “a beginner's guide to internationalization” is a great topic.

Tip #2 - Share Solutions

We all solve problems, and we all solve them in our own unique way. Seeing your solution is extremely interesting to others. People are very curious. We wanna see how others solve the same problem. We love seeing your process as much as the outcome. These talks are often great conversation starters. oh by the way, at FEST we dedicate 15 minutes to Q&A, at the end of each 7 minute talk.

Tip #3 - Face Failures

Everyone fails. We learn from our mistakes and it makes us stronger and smarter. But, Everyone deals with failure differently. All you need is to tell a story about a time you failed. Analyze what went wrong, and what you’ve learned from it.

Tip #4 - Get Personal

We manage a ton of dynamics, outside of coding. But at meetups & tech conferences in our industry, we don’t talk enough about our life outside of writing code. We should! Talking about things we don’t want to talk about is probably the most important thing we need to talk about. We’re constantly learning, juggling priorities, making commitments, giving and receiving feedback. Talk about your relationship with designers, leaders, and teammates. Talk about the hiring process. Talk about annual reviews. Talk about career paths. Talk about your personal growth.

Tip #5 - Tools & Services

Finally, my favorite type of talk is a talk about tooling. These talks often involve a demo. Innovation in tooling is never-ending and it gets noisy. Explain what a tool you use does, how it works internally, what its alternatives are, why it helps productivity. Or maybe why you don’t actually need this tool! Services fit in the same category. Give an overview of a service you want to sell your boss on.

Wrapping up

No matter what topic you choose, you’ll find yourself wanting to become an expert on a topic before and definitley after you commit to giving a talk on it. That's your bonus as a speaker! You’ll learn a ton of stuff you never would have otherwise. So pick something you’re passionate about. But please don’t fall into the trap of perfection and the so called imposter syndrome. Salvador Dalí put it best. He said "Have no fear of perfection - you'll never reach it."

Download the Infographic

I’ve converted the gist of this post into an infographic which you can download in PDF format. Share it with anyone you think might want to give a talk soon.

Now, it's your turn! Take a small idea, and turn it into a Small Talk. And when you're ready to do a talk, send us your talk proposal.

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