UX New Zealand – Life of a speaker (part 1)


It’s one month until the UX New Zealand conference and we have had a great session with a speaking coach. While in the session I thought it would be a good idea to do a blog post on what it is actually like being a speaker, and so here it is.

NOTE: It’s now the week of the conference! so time to post the blog.

The beginning

It all started back in mid-March when the call for speakers was announced. Now comes the first hard decision – what talk do I put forward. Do I put forward a story based talk, a deep dive style talk or a knowledge based technique. Also at what level do you pitch your talk to – is it for juniors, intermediates or experts.

After much deliberation I put forwarded two talks – “UX tips” and “How Adler’s theories can help UX”. The first one came about from talking to people at the after party at UX Homegrown (where I had presented a workshop on Google Analytics). The second was based on some research I have been doing about writing a book on UX and Psychology. I also decided to put forward a workshop on Personas. By putting forward three proposals it gave me full coverage of the types of talks and full coverage of the levels. An attempt to maximise my chances!!

Two months later I hear back and I have been successful. My UX tips talk has been selected.

20 UX tips in 20 minutes
20 UX tips in 20 minutes

The preparation

Luckily for me I had been in conversations with a conference in Seattle about making a similar talk so I already had the back bones of the talk. In fact, I already had a list of 100 tips. The talk was only 20 minutes giving me enough time for 20 tips – but which ones!!

NOTE: If any other conferences want something similar I have another 80 tips to share!!

Backwards and forwards, forwards and backwards, this tip in, this tip out and BOOM!! 20 tips were selected. Although there was a bit more science to it than that. Making sure there was a good spread of topic areas and a a good spread of levels.

Now onto the deck.

First, the styling – minimalist, picture based or elaborate graphics. Because it is fast paced elaborate graphics isn’t going to work as the slides are going to be coming thick and fast. Thus a minimalist option is the best.

Secondly, the content – The content was nice and quick to create. Having already had the list to work from the content produced itself.


Slides are done and it’s time to rehearse. First step – write a script. Although on the day I won’t say it word for word, it’s important to have a script. It makes sure all the key points are covered, and the timing of when to change slides are identified.

Next run through the talk. Firstly, in my head while I walk around the waterfront. Secondly, with the slides. Once I’ve gone through it five times it’s clear that one of the tips won’t work, so that’s replaced. Also a few key pieces of information are only spoken, and as I’ve seen at many conferences there are a lot of attendees who like taking photos, so the slides are changed.

The organisers of the conference have kindly given speakers the chance to have an informal session with a speaking coach. I attend, as although I have run a lot of workshops and training recently its been a few years since I did a big talk. Plus, it’s always good to refresh.

The session is really good.

We get a chance to talk on camera about what we have learnt in the previous five minutes about someone else’s talk. This identifies a trait – I sometimes close my eyes while thinking and recalling information. It’s good to know this, but i’m not too worried about how this will affect my talk – as I know my subject and this was trying to recall someone else’s knowledge. In the second and third parts we are talking about something closer to us – our life and our past times. This part is more natural and I am able to articulate clearer and feel the audience are more engaged.

Practice over. Now time for the hardest and most nervous part of the process (probably actually more nervous than going on stage!). A rehearsal with an audience of one – my wife.

She is the best and most honest critic and reviewer in one. With her background in Comms she helps me make sure I use Plain English. With her knowledge of UX she makes sure I include both the what and why.

This review goes swimmingly and only minor tweaks are needed. Phew!!

Final preparation 

Slides are complete and have been rehearsed enough to be smooth and not over rehearsed so they seem over scripted and monotonous.

Now the two final preparation pieces.

  • What to wear
  • What music to walk into

Let’s start with what to wear. Comfortable professional shoes – sorted. Dark jeans – sorted. But what about the top half. Time to go shopping. Let’s list the criteria:

  • Comfortable
  • Not too tight (Fitness regime has been lacking recently)
  • Won’t show any sweat marks
  • Not too busy – don’t want to look like a magic eye puzzle

Luckily I have a holiday planned and I can get something while away. Hopefully this means there won’t be any wardrobe clashes with other speakers.

Holiday over and a new shirt has been purchased. Outfit sorted.

Introduction music has its own challenges. We are asked to select something 15 seconds long. Do you pick something well known? Do you go for lyrics or instrumental? Do you go for something quirky or gimmicky?

Whatever you choose someone will make a pre judged assessment of you from the music. Music chosen – I won’t tell you in this post what I’ve chosen, I’ll include it my next post.

What next?

Slides – Done

Words – Done

Outfit – Done

Music – Done

The only thing left is to do the talk. I’m feeling relaxed and confident that it’s all going to go well.

Hope the people who come enjoy the talk, and if you are coming I hope you get involved and help shout out the numbers as part of the countdown.