My talk at CanberraJS - And Why You Should Do It Too


Last month I gave my first ever talk at the CanberraJS Meetup. Overall it was a great experience and real opportunity to grow both personally and professionally. I would recommend it to anyone. Here is how I got into it and a few things I learned along the way.

How it happened

Two months ago I had planned to meet some colleagues for a drink and to talk code, but I was stood up last minute (if you are reading this, thanks!). I thought I would make the most of a spare evening and headed into the city to my first ever JavaScript meetup, JulyJS. Wei Liu gave an excellent talk on the tricky maths puzzle the Travelling Salesman Problem. You can check out his solution and have a play around. Wei is one of the organisers of the meetup, and we got chatting about some of the things I had been doing in the .Net and front end development space.

Two weeks later Wei got in touch and asked if I wanted to present at the next meetup - although I was pretty apprehensive having never given a presentation before I figured it was time to break off the shackles of the Dark Matter Developer and challenge myself. Game on!

Preparing a Presentation

Did I mention that the meetup was only two weeks after I had agreed to present? I really threw myself in the deep end. I used every spare scrap of time I had, which wasn't much with other work and family commitments. Here are a few things I found useful:

  1. Scott Hanselman's blog 11 Top Tips for a Successful Technical Presentation. Anyone who has seen Hanselman talk knows he is an expert on the subject. The key takeaway is to be passionate about the subject of your talk. It shows.
  2. Reveal.js - I was giving a talk at a JavaScript meetup, so I had better use a JavaScript slide system right? It was quick and easy to set up, but I have to admit that it was a challenge to get HTML and JavaScript code into the slides without it executing the code itself! The trick is to use Markdown and then indent code with four spaces. Of course!
  3. Practice. Practice - Practice! It's not until you start talking out loud that you will find out if your content makes sense and flows properly. I was lucky enough to do a test run with some colleagues, which I highly recommend. I found that a few jokes fell flat and just scrapped them. Some parts needed more explanation. In the end, you need to be able to give your presentation under any circumstances, so be prepared.

The talk itself

About 30 people RSVP'd to the meetup, although there would have been a few that didn't come, it was still the most well attended CanberraJS meetup to date. At first I was hoping that no one would come so I wouldn't have anything to worry about, but in fact it was much better with lots of people, and I was proud to share my story with as many people as possible.

You can catch the slide deck here, Back to Front (notice how it's a website? Pretty cool feature of a JavaScript slide deck system). Basically it's a talk of how a traditional .Net developer uses ASP.Net MVC Razor View Engine plus a sprinkle of JQuery for their UI - but the modern web demands more. It talks to how a modern .Net dev needs to embrace the wild west of front end development and the JavaScript eco system, but in fact things aren't that bad, using the right tools like TypeScript and the Angular CLI (or create-react-app) you can have a truly enjoyable development experience, that in my opinion is superior to the traditional ASP.Net way.

What now?

Well, my talk was quite well received, and a week later I was lucky enough to go to NDC Sydney 2017, where I was inspired to start this blog. It's a lot of fun giving presentations, and hanging out with like minded people at meetups and conferences and I plan to do it some more.

You can't be sure anyone will read your blog or be interested in your presentation, but there are lots of people out there and lots of different meetups. Find something you are passionate about, find some other people who are passionate about it too, and see what happens!

Stephen Wells

Hi, I'm Stephen, and I'm a software developer. I work in Government and private enterprise, using technologies like .Net, Azure and Angular.