Swaroop C H

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MCC FOSS Day

18 Feb 2006

Yesterday, I talked about Python at the FOSS Day at Mount Carmel College For Women.

I was not able to attend the earlier sessions in the day because my team (at work) is making a release soon and as expected, that means crunch time. I managed to make time for presenting my own talk and attending Shreyas' talk (who spoke after me).

Before I started my talk, Surjo warned me to make my talk as non-technical as possible. I was informed that some of the earlier talks had not been well received by the audience since it was "too technical". That reminded me of Guy Kawasaki's notes from a Stevenote where he says it helps that Steve has a beautiful operating system to show off, and for me, it helps that I have a beautiful language to show off, heh.

Earlier in the day, I had reminded myself of Simon's notes on public speaking where he makes two good suggestions:

Following this advice, I had stripped down the content of my presentation (the same presentation that I have used earlier for beginner Python talks) to the bare minimum.

The mistake in my last talk at foss.in was that I had made the slides too detailed and I suffered by trying to "stick to the slides". Since I had avoided that this time, I had a free hand in what I spoke and actually used the slides for what they were meant - a reminder of what topics to talk about and not a replacement for the speaker. As a result, my talk was better than I anticipated.

Since I was asked to try to make the talk non-technical and I had also perceived the audience to have a short attention span, I decided to make the talk more about interaction rather than about Python. Most of them knew about C, so I followed the principle of "always start from the known to the unknown" and kept comparing C to Python and that helped to keep them interested. I knew the talk was going well when I compared their 6-line version of Hello World in C to 1 line in Python, and when I demoed some simple statements and asked them "I just ran a program, but where's the semicolon?" - that surprised them and they started clapping. From there on, it was all about keeping them enthused.

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I asked them if they liked cricketers or film stars, and they gave an overwhelming response that cricketers were preferred. So, I wrote a Python list and added names of cricketers they liked (Irfan Pathan is popular indeed) and asked them how they would get the second and third cricketers names in a C array and compared that with slicing in Python and that received cheers as well.

One of the few mistakes I did was waste a lot of time in the last part of my talk trying to download FeedParser to demonstrate how to use it.

After the talk was over, I received some good feedback as well as questions, which is always a good sign. It's good to know that I'm improving my speaking skills. I've come a long way from a kid who thought thrice before standing up in class.

Interestingly, this has been my 10th talk on stage.

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