I’m presenting at JBossWorld this year, talking about best practices and trip hazards related to Apache Maven.
I’ve spent the past several days working on the presentation, and one thing that strikes me is how much work goes into so very little content. The idea and general outline are the easy part! After this comes hours of concocting graphics that illustrate your point while de-cluttering the slides, then hours of dealing with the most ruthless of editors: the stopwatch. Long before you’ve satisfied this critic, you’re forced to give up on some of the ideas you previously regarded as absolute essentials. In the end, you come to realize that you’ve initially had enough content to fill three hours, not fifty minutes.
I’ve opted this year to do a LOT more slides, many of which are variations on the same message that each highlight a different aspect. I’m hoping this will have the effect of presenting the same amount of content in a much clearer way, but who knows? I’m going on the theory that a picture is worth a thousand words, so we’ll see if that’s true…I should have some results for you in a couple weeks. I’ve chosen to stay away from live demos, mainly because most presentations I’ve seen that include them don’t work well (especially when the presentation is only an hour long). Usually, there are enough things that go wrong to derail the point of the presentation. Besides, I’m still relatively new to this, and I’m not willing to play fast and loose with the time management just yet, thanks very much.
Beyond struggling with the work involved in getting the slides just right, I’m also struck by the fact that each message has its own optimum medium. People in the business world are fond of saying that some things just need to be solved face-to-face, or that sometimes there’s simply no substitute for a phone call. Mostly I tend to think of these people as just not trying hard enough, or giving in to the habits bred by long years spent in co-located offices and cubicle farms. But I think that giving a technical presentation makes this point in a completely backward way…if you’ve ever tried to explain a technical concept in mere words and hand gestures, you know what I mean. As you attempt to manipulate imaginary solid shapes in mid-air, all the while relating the concept using a bunch of very technical words that have extremely closely-related definitions in their everyday use, you begin to understand the absurdity of it all. This is probably where a good set of diagrams – or a live demo – can save the day. I’m hoping that’s true. Otherwise, people are going to be in for one hell of an imaginary puppet show!
Wish me luck! And, if you’re at JBossWorld this year, stop by Wednesday afternoon and say hi. I’ll be presenting Maven Best Practices.