On Friday, Jan 9, at a little past 09:00, I finished presenting my first talk at a conference. I usually speak at Columbus Ruby Brigade to a captive audience of 30-40 people; CodeMash is a huge convention and I wasn't guaranteed to have anyone show up! Here's the things I took away from my experience.
Drop the self deprecation
My sense of humor usually runs toward the self-deprecating, which isn't a problem with folks that know me. At a convention where the majority of folks haven't met you, it's best to put your best face forward. Yes, sell yourself a little. Nobody else is, and this group of strangers might not immediately know that your jokes about how your talk is terrible aren't true.
No fancy gimmicks
My original talk title was "What to say when they ask about security" and the description involved a narrative about being audited and how you might respond to that.
The talk itself was pretty basic intro to Rails app security, using the OWASP Top Ten as a guide.
I think I may have confused a bunch of people by trying to get gimmicky with my talk title and description. I definitely confused folks (including myself) by changing the title to the more simple "Basics of Rails App Security" at the last minute -- the old and new title co-existed on displays and in people's minds.
If you're submitting a talk, give it the most basic title and description you can. Don't be overly specific with it (because the talk will change somewhat), but don't try to inject it with character that the talk doesn't have.
Give your finished talk before the conference
I didn't finish my slides until the day before I was slated to present. I was super nervous about not having them done, and it kinda consumed the first two days of the conference with nervousness. When I did finally finish, a few friends volunteered to listen to a runthrough; they had great feedback for me, but that means that I still wasn't done.
Don't sweat it
My talk was at 08:30 the day after the gigantic afterparty. Attendance at my party was low. I'd kept telling myself and others that this wasn't important, but it still kinda stung. I have to keep in mind that this isn't a personal thing. I submitted a talk to a conference, and it was selected from amongst hundreds of other submissions.
I'll take some of the things I learned giving the talk, refine the presentation a tad, and keep submitting it and other talks.