Coming August 11, 2009

What to Prepare for your Demo

Mike Rush asked the organizer list, “What’s protocol re: PPT? Should I have slides prepared for my talk or is winging a live demo acceptable?” I responded to him via e-mail, and he encouraged me to post my response on the blog:

Regarding talks, I can only speak from my own limited experience. I never spotted a single slide deck at THATCamp 2008, perhaps outside of the DorkShorts. I think that in general people winged it in the sessions, and had something at least halfway-rehearsed at DorkShorts, lest they spend their entire 3-minute slot fighting with wireless connections and video adapters.

At the crowdsourcing transcription/annotation session I presented at, the other person with something to demo and I arrived in the room a bit ahead of time to figure out how to connect our laptops. Once the session started, our organizer turned the floor over to me to lay out some background on existing tools. I then spent about 10 or 15 minutes running through a demo of my software, with frequent interruptions and suggestions from the other participants. The other developer spent a bit more time on his demo because his software was more mature, his interruptions were more frequent, and also because we were all interested in some of the details of how he’d implemented overlapping markup. A general discussion followed which included folks hooking their laptops up to demo how some commercial packages handled visualizing document transcription.

At Dork Shorts (one of three Dork Short sessions we had that year), I had prepared a 5-minute introduction to GraphViz, which included an intro to the dot language, a well-prepared demo of generating dot by parsing a static TEI document, and a blink-and-you-miss-it display of how I’m using dot/GraphViz to visualize dynamic data within my own software. Because that session was lightly attended, I got to interact with the other participants more than I anticipate for THATCamp Austin. For this event, I plan to prepare a solid 5-minute demo, in the event that I get to demo at DorkShorts but don’t get to demo at a regular session.

None of this should be interpreted as prescriptive, however — it’s always hard to figure out how representative your own experience is, or how helpful it might be when transmuted into advice.