How do top speakers prepare before a conference? Previously, we spoke to Hubert Sablonnière after he gave one of the top rated sessions at Devoxx Belgium. Before his debut at Devoxx UK, we asked him how we goes about preparing to present.


How do you go about preparing for presentations?

It’s a mix of lots a preparation, self-doubt and last minute rush. Once I know I’m accepted for a conference, I’m usually like: “It’s going to be OK, I have lots of time to do this”. I often go through a preliminary research period to consolidate what I already know on the subject and to open up my opinions. While working on this research, I write down ideas, links, articles… in a document. I also think about the story I want to tell. Writing a good story takes time. The making of the slides also takes time but I usually start working on it 2 weeks before thinking “OMG, I only have 10 days, this is going to suck, I’m such a failure”. In the end, it often goes better than expected.

Is there an art to being a good conference speaker?

I would not say it’s an art because I think the end goal of a conference talk is not to produce a masterpiece, but rather to teach, share and entertain. At the same time I think a good conference speaker has a lot to learn from actors, comedians, documentary filmmakers and YouTubers. I think I realized what makes the difference when I was teaching a webdev course a few years ago: you have to be passionate about your subject and the audience needs to feel that you enjoy being there talking about it. This is not always easy when your own stress is trolling you.

What are the elements of conference talks that you have enjoyed watching?

I used to really like course-like conference talks. The one where the speaker explains everything you need to know about X. I gave a few talks like this. Now I’m more inclined to enjoy feedback talks where the speaker tells you a story about what she did on a the project. I like to know about the details which pushed the team to choose technology X and ditch technology Y. I enjoy seeing code & demos – but not too much. I also need good visuals and diagrams to understand it better.


Join Hubert at Devoxx UK for an Ultrasonic Adventure


Preparing to Present

About The Author
- Katharine is a Java developer by trade, turned Community & Content Manager for Voxxed. Helping developers learn and share knowledge. Contact me at with any news, articles or tutorials.

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