Speaking at KubeCon 2017 - Part 4 - The Talk

My final corrections and preparation, how it went, and future thoughts as I wrap up this four post series of my experience leading up to and speaking at KubeCon 2017.

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More Visuals Needed!

While I felt like my dry-run slide deck was visually appealing in color scheme, used varying font styles for emphasis, and had decent clip-art style photos, it lacked a visual foundation. I needed to convey a picture of a Kubernetes cluster that was simple enough to understand by the audience yet had enough detail to encompass all the attacks/hardening steps.

I spent well over 20 hrs coming up with the visual of Slide 22 using Cloudcraft. I was happy that I now had a visual anchor of the playing field that I could leverage when explaining each attack type.


I knew that I needed to spend less time on the setup, less time doing the demos, and more time explaining how to harden things. And shave about 20 mins off my run time.

As I practiced, I found ways to set up each slide with fewer words. I consolidated several slides and threw out a handful altogether. I even went so far as to hand edit the asciinema JSON such that the typing delays more closely matched my prepared words. So when I clicked “start” on the demo, what I said was concisely summarizing the text going across the screen and calling the audience’s attention to the exact spot I wanted them to see as it appeared.

I practiced maybe a dozen times before arriving in Austin. And I probably doubled that number while I was there in my hotel room before falling asleep each night. I suppose it helped me burn off the nervous energy since I was speaking after lunch on the last day.

The Day Of

I went to the keynotes in the morning, but I was so nervous, I skipped the two morning sessions. My talk was at 2pm, the first after lunch, so I grabbed a sandwich and went to an empty side of the conference to practice out loud. The problem with this approach, you see, is that your voice is a perishable commodity. Having recently gotten over a cough and having spoken out loud all week to myself in practicing, a bit of a hoarseness was creeping in.

The 10 mins waiting for the talk to start were when I was most nervous. Is my battery still good? Is the screen still displaying or did it sleep? Is my slide advancer still working? My microphone level good?

The moment I started speaking, I knew it was going to be just fine. Yes, I had a bit of that cough pop up, but the room was attentive and I got a lot of head nods. I thought I set up the demos decently, executed them well, and gotten their attention on the right moments. What threw me off, though, was the lack of questions. I think to some degree, most folks were a combination of conference-fatiguted and still somewhat firehosed with the info. I had a few really good conversations and congratulatory remarks from folks in the hallway afterward. Finally, I felt relief. I remember saying to myself, “Ok, THAT’s done”.

Parting Thoughts

I appreciate all the help I’ve received from my family, close friends, and the Kuberentes community members (see the last slide on my deck) for the patience, support, and guidance in helping me complete this journey. And thank you to the CNCF/KubeCon Committee members for giving me the opportunity to present.

This blog series is a diary of sorts to help me remember all the hard work, why I did it, and to allow myself to feel proud about the past 5 months. I hope that chronicling it all might help would-be presenters see my end-to-end process, see the final result, and have a better perspective of the overall experience. Of course, not every talk requires or should be as technically dense or try to cover so much ground. I firmly believe that everyone has something of value to offer the community if they look hard enough into their work or ask the right questions of themselves. If not, be patient and keep asking. It’ll come.

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