I cannot praise the board members of CodeMash (@codemash) enough; this year was yet another excellent conference. Rather than focus on all the things I did at CodeMash this year, I want to focus on a single thread that made CodeMash special for me. I realise I'm a little late getting round to this considering the conference was in January, but I want to tell you about me winning the Pecha Kucha contest of CodeMash 188.8.131.52.
Public Speaking 101
On the first day, I decided I was going to attend the Choose Your Own Application precompiler1 session in the afternoon, but I was unsure of how to spend my morning. After perusing the other precompiler sessions, I decided to check out Leon Gersing's (@rubybuddha) workshop on public speaking. Though I fully intended to ditch this class midway through to continue my day with Brian Genisio (@BrianGenisio) and Dennis Burton (@dburton), Leon's workshop was so compelling and enjoyable, I couldn't do it. His background in theatre coupled with his patient, consistent and insightful coaching style ensured that attendees became comfortable with speaking (and sometimes singing) in front of one another. Though I attended some great sessions, had some great conversations and ate some awesome bacon, this workshop was my favourite experience of CodeMash. I doubt there were few, if any people who left that workshop not intending to do more public speaking at some point.
During the class we were tasked with putting together a five minute presentation about anything at all and delivering it to the class for critique about our presentation style and habits. My choice of in-class talk had been a toss-up between something about building a raised bed and something about British slang. Given the potentially offensive minefield of the latter and the fact that I already had a blog of material about the former, I babbled about DIY for five minutes in class and gained an disproportionate level of confidence about my abilities in public speaking. Running off the high I had gained from delivering an impromptu five minute gardening lesson, I decided to enter the Pecha Kucha contest with a presentation on British slang. After all, why offend a small room of forgiving workshop attendees when you can offend a much larger room of conference attendees?
Pecha Kucha is a presentation contest where you get 20 slides that auto-advance at 20 seconds per slide. It's a battle of timing, content and delivery. For those who attended last year, you may remember the Urinal Rules Kata slide deck from Mel Grubb, Jon Skeet's Coding in the Style of Glee or Leon Gersing and his Pecha Kucha on Love. I felt that all three of these had set the bar pretty high, so I stayed up till 4:00 AM on Wednesday night agonising over what to include in my slides. I had decided to focus on areas of British slang that might be common pitfalls for Americans. I also wanted to avoid anything that might be directly offensive to the non-British audience (my apologies to Jon Skeet and other Brits that were in attendance). By 4:00 AM, with my slide deck almost complete, I fell asleep.
The next morning, I submitted my presentation title, "The Dog's Bollocks", to the contest so that conference attendees could vote. The plan was that presentations with the highest number of votes would get to present in the main hall just after dinner. I checked my tally over the course of the morning and noted that I was not getting many votes. This was probably because my title flew in the face of what we had discussed in class; titles should give an indication as to the subject of the talk.
As the day wore on, my late night caught up with me and I decided to go for a nap sometime around midday. While I was asleep, my friends pimped my talk all over the Kalahari resort, so I awoke a few hours later to my phone buzzing with text messages to let me know I was presenting in the contest. I had less than an hour to finish my presentation, but with a few edits and some new slides, I did so. Once the deck was submitted and at the insistence of my friend, I performed a couple of rehearsals in our hotel room as he grinned back at me with the most disconcerting of smiles and then we headed off for dinner and the main event.
The Main Event
After dessert, all the contestants gathered near the stage and determined in what order we would present. I have no idea what that order was, just that I wasn't first, I wasn't last and Jon Skeet was after me (I know this because he cleverly borrowed a bit of my talk to end his own, for which I was really flattered). All the talks varied wildly in both content and delivery, leaving a somewhat difficult choice for the audience to make when voting. In the end, it was determined that I and Jessica Kerr (@jessitron) were the most popular entries and so, we had to contend with the battle deck in order to determine a winner.
The battle deck consisted of ten slides, chosen by Brian Prince (@brianhprince), that neither I nor Jessica saw before presenting them. In the end, my battle deck performance swayed the audience just enough and I won the contest. I thanked Leon Gersing, my public speaking coach of two days earlier, several times after I won as I would not have done so if I had not attended his workshop and nor if he had been participating instead of compering.
I've included videos of my main talk and my battle deck performance below. I recommend that you hunt down videos of the other performances if you can as there were some great ones (I'll add any that I find or that you send me).
Also, you may note (as others have) that "Pigs" is slang to both the British and Americans. Due to last minute edits, this one slipped through. What can I say? I was tired.
CodeMash lingo for the first two days of the conference. ↩