Technical talks should introduce concepts

One of the things that I think is key to a good technical talk is to introduce concepts instead of getting bogged down in code details.

You see, most programmers are self taught. Which means that if they know something can be done and they want to do it, they’ll just sit down with Google search until they crack it.

So teach concepts instead. The idea will stick in the programmers mind and when they need it, maybe years later, it’ll pop up again.

For example, I found learning Android programming easier because I had seen a talk that explained the basic concepts of the activity life cycle and the intent system that sends messages between activities.

Or the talk about messaging systems that I saw was perfect for web developers. I think when I finally came to use a messaging system I used a different one from the one that was demoed (I used Beanstalkd and I can’t even remember for sure which one was demoed) but what was important is that the talk taught me a better way of moving the workload from the front of your web app to the back end.

So when I was finding talks for Tech Meetup, I would find talks like an introduction to user testing not because I thought all programmers should be experts in it (I wouldn’t call myself an expert) but because I thought every developer should at least know that it exists and the basic concepts.

I’m not saying you should never have any technical details in a talk; sometimes a technical detail or demo communicates the idea much more effectively than words ever will, and its usually more entertaining. But always remember to concentrate on the concept.

This is the first of several posts about running tech events taken from a talk I gave at OggCamp 2012. I’m not claiming I’m always right, but hopefully this will give people something to think about and start a conversation.

This is a repost from my personal blog,

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