Aikido at OSCON

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Presentation Aikido
with Damian Conway (& Larry Wall as Aikido master)
introduced by Nathan Torkington and Larry.

Wow, Damian is SUCH an amazing speaker, and here's a talk about how to
give talks. Always hilarious and intriguing. Maybe I can use this
stuff to make up my next Perl class.

Aikido means "harmony spirit path". It is a purely defensive martial
art by Morihei Ueshiba, with the mantra of "Love thine enemy" - help
him and encourage him.

You can be extremely relaxed in front the audience. Like perl -
laziness is a virtue - do things in the easiest possible way.

Damain does an aikido demonstration with Larry Wall (who happens to be
an aikido master), some humor, and then - on a serious note, *make the
point*. Very Damian.

Connect with the audience; speaking directly to each person; sharing
your ideas for their benefit. He's a master at this, and he's sharing
his secrets; recursive in a way, if you consider it! Presenting is a
privilege - the audience, even if not giving respect, is giving
*time*. You're like a vampire, or Count Rugen (the life-sucker from
Princess Bride) - sucking their life away. So this establishes a
positive viewpoint.

Talk about subjects you really know; things you've really done (or
prepare so that you do really know the material).

He has four phases to presentations: Planning, Preparation, Delivery,
and Interaction (aka planning, battleorders, engagement, bayoneting
the wounded). Plan out 10 hours of preparation for each hour of

First, pick what you're going to talk about! No matter what the
topic, take it in a direction you know about. Find a way to be
interested in it, or find a guest expert. The ki (spirit) in aikido
is the key (hehe). Entertaining always trumps informative. But less
cynically, a presentation is rarely the primary information source -
it's more an overview - or just a reassurance. You give the audience
a gift that the concepts presented are "attainable" - understandable!
They want a cognitive structure to later fit the details into.

Choose a title that hints at the topic - but leaves some measure of
intrigue. and work in a pop culture reference if you can. By the
way, if you use a popculture reference, make them work for it a bit!
(i.e. no picture of Yoda needed for the "Do or do not, there is no
try" quote. Trust me this was hilarious at the time!)

Now you need a blurb - it's the primary marketing pitch. You want to
say "come to my talk because it's interesting and I'm a good
speaker. It'll be applicable to you, not too abstract, not too much
committment required, and I obviously know what I'm talking about.
And there's a bit of a sense of mystery - I haven't told you
everything." Short, well-written, easy to read, catchy, tantalizing.

How to deal with the 7+-2 factor - where as soon as you give people
more than about 7 things to think about, they lose it all. The way
people deal with more information is to hierarchically structure it -
but not as a tree. Structure it, instead, as a *story*. They're only
going to take away 5 or 7 points. What are the five things it's
critical for the audience to know when they leave? Structure a story
to fit those five.

Write the handout first - it's so much easier than the presentation
software. Write the five major outline points. There's
several kinds of sequencing you can use: Chronological (even parallel
- two histories that eventually meet), Causal (answer your own
questions), Layered (drill down or build up), Cumulative (keep
refining a generalization), Narrative (episodes, anecdotes, or

I asked Damian about working on "flow" for an ongoing course like the
Perl course. He simply recommended using the same flow techniques
separately for each class (five points each one). For beginning
course, possibly remind the students of what we did on the last course
with the first slide. Another "flow" that's possible for these
courses is to begin with a big code example with well-named variables
and functions, and talk about each section in detail.

Once you have that flow, place all your ideas you want to talk about
under them. The second level is the bullet points for each topic.
Third level is subpoints (minimize those). Fourth level is code,
demos, data, pictures, etc. And throw away ideas that don't fit, or
are too negative. Look for holes and bridge the gaps.

From here, create the slides (hopefully you get a head start by
importing the handout). Remove words - but leave enough for good
form. You need great looking slides. Here's Damian's hints for
visual style:

The presentation should be a harmonious whole. Stick with black &
white if possible. Standard fonts that are easy to read. Minimize the

To persuade: Large unbulleted serif text. Short declarative
statements. Phrase the conclusion as a rhetorical question that makes
them say yes. No bullets (except maybe on subpoints). To inform:
smaller bulleted sans-serifed. More complete sentences. Softer
contrast, perhaps light on dark. Big font short rhetorical questions.

There's great visual styles out there (just don't use any Microsoft
templates from Powerpoint!) - some blogs have great presentation
styles. But almost always, less is more. Each font needs a meaning
and a purpose, for example:
<li>sans serif for headings (slide title) and decorations (verdana)
<li>classic serif for content (times)
<li>classic fixed width for code (courier)
<li>modern fixed width for command line (monaco)
<li>special purpose : handwritten font for "voice of the audience"

Avoid Comic Sans and Papyrus because they're just cliched. A very
subtle shadow gradient can make slides pop. For imperative, high
energy talks you can use high contrast (black on white or vice versa),
softer contrast (grey on white) for a softer talk. There's a website to help with contrast issues.

Use images as seasoning only - and preferably in an unexpected manner.
And animations should ONLY be used when the video is both amazing and
makes the point very strongly. Often text animation is all you need
(little SouthPark style cartoons with words).

Interesting: people are better at "blink comparison" than at side by
side comparison. It's better to have two slides, with the transition
between the two, than putting the differing examples side-by-side on
the same slide. It gives them a familiar (stuff on the slide that
doesn't change) handle while focussing on the stuff that does
change. Another way to do it is blur/gray out the lines in a code
example that you're NOT talking about at the moment. But avoid fancy
transitions for any other reason.

Surprise them! Ideas for surprising the audience: vary the pace (lots
of quick slides). Punctuate with pictures, stories, anecdotes, or
demos. Punctuation is also helpful to give people landings for your
staircases - a breather - a navigational beacon - a summary. Very
occasionally a full screen picture is nice.

If you're coming back to navigational slide (e.g. the agenda) over and
over, make sure you come back to the SAME slide before doing the
transition to the next bit (show them the familiar).

Completely avoid graphs and charts. The only kind of graph worth
putting in is an ultrasimple graph with only 2 axes, a simple label on
each axis, and a single line (like in the XP book). Just shows a

You can put your name & presentation title on each slide, but make
them subtle and ignorable, and avoid logos altogether.

<b>Damian's Hints for Delivery</b>: Look effortless. The audience
wants the material to be easy. and a positive attitude (man, I'm
gonna suck so much of their lives away :) This was good: be yourself,
because humans want intimacy - to see behind the curtain. It helps to
be passionate about the subject. Damian goes into a Zen bit about
"not being there" during a presentation - being "in the moment".

Rituals and talismans can help to reduce nerves. Use nerves to give
you energy for the talk. Anything you can do to engender familiarity;
also talk to the audience members beforehand, about themselves.

Dress slightly better than your audience is the standard advice. But
basically the audience wants you to look like what they expected you
to look - don't break their expectations. This can apply to dressing
both up and down.

Have yourself introduced. They want to like you. They'll have to
clap. :) You want to be introduced by the highest status authority
figure you can get.

The IO::Prompt module can really help with faking the input. And code
demonstrations have to have a very smooth flow. You don't want to be
switching to the wrong buffer. Every wrong thing that comes up is a
break for the audience.

Never ask for volunteers unless you have a plant! Or choose someone
you've talked to before hand. No more than one physical demonstration
or extended digression.

<b>Questions:</b> The Q&A session is vital, and you have to tell them
what the policy is, in the introductory remarks. But you always tell
them you're keen to take questions, even if you don't. Take the tough
questions first; have your own questions ready in case there are
none. "The question I'm usually asked at this point is..."

To handle the "That Guy" (who turns the presentation into a personal
conversation with lots of questions) - shut him down (with respect)
after the first question by telling him "it's a little too involved
for this audience, let's move on".

A great presentation on presenting by the master of presenters, Damian
Conway. When I'm prepping for my next perl class (or maybe speaking
at Amazon?) I'll use these notes.

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Nancy Treder said:

That's a great entry. Sounds like you are really having fun and learning a lot of stuff.
You are so smart, you just need a shot in the arm once in a while for motivation. I'm so proud of you and your passion to be a programmer with an elegant coding style and influential speaker. You may have found your niche!

Give me a call tomorrow, I still can't access email and I need to get my messages.

Love you,

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This page contains a single entry by Doug Treder published on July 26, 2004 6:40 PM.

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