And I survived! Right after Automating and before lunch I presented a talk on 2FA to Kernelcon in Omaha, NE. Kernelcon was a first ever information security conference in Omaha, and was also my first CFP I every submitted. The two days were a blur but let me breakdown 5 things I learned.
- The audience is rooting for you
- They want you to give a good talk, because they are sitting through it. Something about your description talked to them and now they are excited and want to hear you speak. I was kind of nervous about speaking on security to a group of security professionals, but everyone I talked with was really excited to hear a different perspective. The conference attendees and organizers were kind and really wanted me to succeed. It was also great because I had a couple co-workers sit front and center so I had some friendly faces in the audience (in addition to my husband).
- Go pee before your talk
- This is key, you are already nervous you don’t want to have to worry about your bladder too. This was some advice I was given before my talk (Thanks @jtu) and I made sure to keep it in mind. The time before my talk slipped away so quickly. It probably didn’t help that I was drawn into the CTF (Capture the Flag) event that was going on 😉.
- Don’t be afraid to take a sip of water during your talk
- This was something that I didn’t even think of until after my talk. Tim, one of the organizers who also introduced me before my talk, came up afterwards to check if I was OK and mentioned I sounded like I had a frog in my throat. Ooops 😳! I hadn’t taken a sip of water the entire talk, and I was at the tail end of a cold, so I probably really, really needed to. Since I was concentrating so much on what I wanted to say, I kind of turned out how I was feeling and what I even sounded like. That was a mistake, you have to listen to your body and pause and take a drink when you need it. It will make you sound better, and help you take a moment, pause, and collect your thoughts too.
- You’re probably going to be miked, so you’re going to sound different
- I knew mentally that I was going to be doing this talk in a larger room, with lots more people, but until they were clipping a mike onto my jacket, I guess it never clicked that I would need to wear a microphone. I hope I didn’t sound too bad, or breathing loudly, but I think this is something you just need to keep in mind might happen to you at a conference. Don’t forget to pay attention to when you have it on, because a lot of people can hear your then!
- People are going to walk out, but that doesn’t mean your talk is bad
- People did walk out of my talk, not a ton but some. Was it because I was doing a bad job? Hopefully not, or at least everyone who attended my talk didn’t say that to me in person. There is a lot of reasons, it was close to lunch, they needed to hit the restroom, they had a workshop to get back to, or they just had a raging need to go pick a lock (seriously this was super fun to try out in the lockpick village). Whatever reason, don’t worry if they do walk out, and concentrate and make contact with your attendees at the talk. It was kind of fun to make eye contact with people, and see when they really agreed or just got a point that you were trying to make.
I’m by no means an expert, heck I’ve only done this one time, but I think getting to present at a conference has been an amazing experience. It has made me really, really research a topic, become much more comfortable speaking in front of a group of people, and given me the opportunity to be part of the security community that I might have not have been without speaking there. If you have a chance to speak at a conference, I highly recommend giving it a try!
If you are attending a conference, don’t be afraid to go speak to the speaker afterwards. I know I loved all the feedback I got, and it helps me make my talk and my speaking experience better. Also make sure to shout out to the speaker on social media (if they are participating in that kind of thing), I loved hearing from audience members!
Shout out to Jennifer Wadalla and Zack Holman for making very helpful articles and material to help out conference speaker newbie’s like me!