Presentation shortening

2012-05-15 20:23
In an effort to make more room for more talks in our schedule for this year's Berlin Buzzwords we've asked quite a few people to shorten their presentation from 40min down to 20min. The thought behind it is to not only give more people a chance to talk on their work but also have those shorter talks focused down to the absolute essential information for people to learn.

However I've seen people give awesome 45min presentations fail miserably when forced to cut down their talk - and have myself delivered a very weak presentation at a 5min Ignite presentation.

As a result I thought it might be a good idea to share some thoughts on how to go about shortening your talk and still deliver a convincing performance:

First of all, don't take your usual 40min talk and cut away slides. As obvious as it may seem that this will result in poor slides it's still all too tempting to take a working long presentation and just throw away some content to make it shorter in time. What really happens however is that people either cut out the meat - which leaves you with a shallow brief introduction and not much else left - or the meat is left in with not much around to help listeners understand what the talk is all about. Also speakers might be tempted to leave well working jokes in: Don't without thinking twice - there are things that do take long to prepare, if you cut away all preparation the fun is gone as well. Some people cut down demos to just briefly skip to the browser and than switch back to the slides - if you like the demo and think it's worthwhile: Take your time to demo and shorten elsewhere. Noone benefits from briefly seeing a browser window with not much like an application in there.

So how to go about when asked to cut down your slides? First of all: Think about what is the main message that you want to deliver. What is the core piece of knowledge people should know when leaving your talk. From there build up your story and provide all the necessary detail for the audience to understand your talk.

That does not necessarily mean throwing out all greek symbols because math is just to hard to explain briefly - if they are needed, leave them in, take the time for explanation and build up equations as you go.

Also it doesn't mean that you should cover the very basics only. Clearly label your talk as advanced whenever that is both appropriate and possible - build on your audience's knowledge without repeating all nitty gritty details. It can help to openly ask at the beginning simple yes/no questions and ask people to raise their hands to find out whether they are familiar with a certain technology or not. Knowing your attendees background can save you a lot of time when preparing a talk.

One final piece of advise: There's one book that once helped my a lot improve my own talks called Presentation Zen - if you don't know it yet, it certainly is well worth reading.

PS: Dear speakers, if you are reading this but have not yet fully read the speaker acceptance notification mail - please do so now - I promise it does contain information that is valuable for you to know in particular if your employer happens to sponsor your travel to the conference.

Berlin Buzzwords 2010 - Scalability conference June 7th/ 8th in Berlin

2010-05-14 15:48
The Berlin Buzzwords schedule was published a few days ago. There are tracks specific to the three tags search, store and scale. We have a fantastic mixture of developers and users of open source software projects that make scaling data processing today possible.

There is Steve Loughran, Aaron Kimball and Stefan Groschupf from the Apache Hadoop community. We have Grant Ingersoll, Robert Muir and the "Generics Policeman" Uwe Schindler from the Lucene community.

For those interested in NoSQL databases there is Mathias Stearn from MongoDB, Jan Lehnardt from CouchDB and Eric Evans, the guy who coined the term NoSQL one year ago.

The schedule has been published online. Visit the webpage and register for the conference - looking forward to seeing you in Berlin this summer!

Regular tickets are available online. In addition we offer student tickets: If you have a valid student ID, you are eligible for one of these tickets. Each costs 100,- Euro. We also have a special group ticket available: If you buy four tickets or more you are eligible for a discount of 25%, when purchasing 10 tickets or more the discount is 50%. Learn more at

One day before the conference we are having a Berlin Buzzwords Barcamp in town. In addition, directly after the conference, Cloudera will be hosting Apache Hadoop trainings - registration is separate from Berlin Buzzwords.

So just in case you need a good excuse for a long term trip to Berlin: You can spend the weekend in town, attend the Barcamp on Sunday evening, visit Berlin Buzzwords on Monday and Tuesday. The rest of the week could be used to take part in Apache Hadoop trainings. Finally you have one weekend left for a city tour.

Thanks to Jan Lehnardt, Simon Willnauer and newthinking communications for co-organising the event.

Apache Hadoop Get Together March 2010

2010-03-11 00:40
Today (or more correctly, yesterday) the March 2010 Hadoop Get Together took place in newthinking store. I arrived rather early to have some time to do some planning for Berlin Buzzwords - got there nearly one hour before the meetup. However it did not take very long until first guests came to the store. So I quickly got my introductory slides in place - Martin from newthinking already had the room setup, camera in place and audio working.

When starting the meetup the room was already packed with some 60 people - we ended up having over 70 people interested in the mix of talks on Hadoop, HBase and Spatial search with Lucene and Solr. Doing the regular "Who are you"-round, we learned that there were people from nurago, Xing, StudiVZ, *lots and lots* of people from Nokia, Zanox, eCircle, and many others.

The meetup was kindly supported by newthinking store (venue for free) and Nokia (sponsored the videos). Steffen Bickel took his chance during the introduction to give a brief overview of Nokia and - guess - explain, that Nokia is a great place to work and yeah - they are hiring!

The first talk was given by Bob Schulze who joined the meetup coming from eCircle in Munich. Given his previous experience with scaling their infrastructure from a regular database/ datawarehouse setup he explained how HBase helped when processing really large amounts of data. Being an e-mail marketing provider, eCircle does have quite a bit of data to process. And yes, eCircle is hiring.

Second talk was by Dragan Milosevic from Zanox on scaling product search and reporting with Hadoop. Just as eCircle, Zanox came from a regular RDMS setup that became too expensive and too complex too scale before switching over to a Hadoop/Lucene stack. He used his chance to make the Lucene developers aware of the fact that there are users who would were actually using Lucene's compression features. Zanox, as well, is looking for people to hire.

Last talk was by Chris Male from JTeam in Amsterdam on the developments in Lucene and Solr to support for spatial search. There are various development routes being followed: Cartesian tiers as well as numeric range searches. He also explained that most of the features are still under heavy development. He finished his talk with a demo on what can be done with spatial search in Lucene/ Solr. You already guessed so, JTeam is hiring as well ;)

After the talks we went to Cafe Aufsturz for beers, drinks and some food. People enjoyed talking to each other exchanging experiences. A Lucene focussed table quickly formed - main topics: Spatial search, Lucene/Solr merge threads, heavy committing, Mike McCandless (is this guy real or just an alter-ego of the Lucene community?).

At some time around 11p.m. the core of the guests (well - the Lucene part of the meetup, that is Simon, Uwe and the guys from JTeam) moved over to a bar close by next to cinema central for some more beer and drinks. At about 1a.m. it finally was time to head home.

I'd like to say thanks: First of all to the speakers. Without you the meetup would not be possible. Second to newthinking and Nokia for their support. And of course to all attendees for having grown the meetup to its current size.

I had a really nice evening with people from the Hadoop, HBase and Lucene community. Special thanks to you guys from JTeam for traveling 6h to Berlin just for a "little", though no longer that tiny, Hadoop meetup. Promise stands, to visit one of your next Lucene meetups in Amsterdam and present Mahout there - however I need some help finding affordable accomodation ;)

Hope to see you all in June at Berlin Buzzwords.