I came across this tweet by Vidit, and it stirred all the emotions of speaking at a conference, urging me to pen them down in words.

I am not a veteran when it comes to public speaking. Although, I have improved considerably compared to my first talk. I presented at four conferences with different topics, and I can summarise my experience in one line:

Everything and anything can go wrong.

When speaking at a conference for the first time, so many things can go wrong. It is like a Murphy's Law kind of situation - if something can go wrong, it probably will. And it is okay! You should be prepared for this kind of experience too.

But do not let that discourage you! Speaking at a conference is an incredibly rewarding experience and the best way for me to meet new people, cherish time with X (formerly Twitter) friends, and even find potential job opportunities.

Prepare, Prepare, Prepare

The more prepared you are, the less likely things will go wrong. And the things that do go wrong that are not in your control, you are still ready to work around it, like a developer who dealt with SwiftUI in iOS 13!

Make sure you know the presentation content inside and out. Practice it multiple times, and time yourself to ensure you are not exceeding the allotted time. And do not forget to bring PDF copies of your presentation, just in case. My Keynote file was lost in iCloud a few days before my Apple internship presentation. 😪

Keep Calm

My first-ever talk did not go as smoothly as I had hoped. Just a few minutes into my presentation, the projector started flickering. It would go black every few seconds, leaving the audience in the dark.

I was as nervous as anything.

I could feel the sweat starting to form on my brow. On my face. On my hair. I tried to stay calm and carry on, but it was hard to focus with the projector acting up.

The audience was amazing. They were cheerful and supportive and even laughed at my little jokes here and there. It was their energy and enthusiasm that kept me going. I initially practised for 25 minutes but presented it for around 30 minutes instead!

Tip for you: If the technology fails, engage with the audience. I know it sounds difficult as someone on the stage for the first time, and it definitely is. But it helped me ease into the momentum. Ask them questions, tell a story, or share an anecdote. This can help you connect with them and keep the presentation going.

The first experience was not the best. But it taught me an important lesson. No matter what happens, you need to stay calm and composed. You cannot let a technical glitch or other unexpected event throw away the tens of hours of practice.

For my third talk, I was the opening speaker. When I was about to present, loud noises came from somewhere, and the screen went black.

My heart stopped beating for a while. Maybe it was beating too fast to notice. I do not remember clearly, but I do remember I was scared at that time. Frightened because it brought back memories from the first experience.

I thought to myself, "This cannot be happening. Not now." But I took a deep breath and waited for a few minutes. Thankfully, it got fixed, and I could start my talk. And I think I did much better than I anticipated!

Experience of a Lightning Talk

As someone who recently gave a lightning talk at iOS Conf SG 2024, I can tell you it is a great way to build your confidence in public speaking. With a shorter duration of 10-15 minutes, it is less of a daunting task compared to a 30 to 45-minute talk.

When creating your slides, keep it simple. Avoid overcrowding your slides with information. Instead, focus on one key point per slide. Use high-contrast colours for readability so your audience can easily see and understand your slides. With only 10-15 minutes to convey your message, making every second count is important.

Another effective tip is to use images and graphics. These can help convey complex ideas quickly and make your presentation more engaging. I love how Lee has used visuals in his lightning talk:

One of my biggest difficulties was balancing surface-level and deep-level knowledge of my topic. I wanted to provide enough information to keep the audience engaged, but I also wanted to dive deeper into the subject. It is a delicate balance as a first-timer that I am still working on perfecting.

Another challenge with a shorter talk is being precise about the topic. With only 10-15 minutes, you cannot cover everything. You must be selective about what you include and leave out. It is important to prioritise the most important information and leave some things for the audience to explore on their own.

As for the talk's delivery, I struggled with whether to recite the whole 1500-word script or use speaker notes. I ended up going with the latter because of my weak memory. Having speaker notes allowed me to stay on track and avoid missing any important points.


It feels empowering to look out at a sea of faces, all eager to hear what you have to say. And when the crowd cheers for you, it is a feeling difficult to put into words.

Happy speaking!

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