Boost your technical knowledge by effectively watching presentations

(Last Updated On: 1st June 2018)

Motivation

We are living in a world of events and conferences on diverse topics, targeted for different people with diverse technical background and skills. The amount of ideas and approaches is quite impressive, hence almost impossible for a human brain to capture or be aware of everything! Fortunately, the majority of such events are recorded and published on video streaming channels (e.g. youtube, Vimeo), hence we can watch them later on at home (without attending the conference or the event itself) as many times as we wish. Of course, attending an event is always better due to the networking and social aspects, but this is not always possible due to several constraints (i.e. time, budget).

In this regard, the current article aims to give you a few hints about how to effectively level up your technical knowledge by following specific events or conferences and watching their sessions in a very effective manner. This is a practice I use for several years now and proved very effective to me.

Guidelines

First of all, it is important to know the topics you are interested in. For example, if you like a specific programming language (e.g. Java, Scala, C++), a specific technology (e.g. Spring, Docker) or other topics like software architecture, agile, etc., then you need to find suitable conferences covering such topics. One good source which aggregates a lot of events and conferences is IT-CFP-LIST. Besides that, if you want to propose and submit topics to such events in order to be accepted as a speaker, the list contains information about the CFP process as well.

Once identified the conferences, then you need to monitor them! In this regard, I would advise you to create a Twitter account and follow them, since most of such conferences are posted on Twitter. Besides that, it is also useful to search for their video streaming channels (e.g. youtube, Vimeo). This way you might be aware of technical discussions or tweets on specific topics but also acknowledged when the sessions are published so you can easily watch them afterward.

However, be careful because it is not sufficient just to launch the presentation, grab popcorn and beer and passively listen for the entire talk duration, they are not movies! In case of technical materials, we need to rely on a few effective techniques I am going to describe next. I tested them a lot and in my case, they bring very good results.

So, let’s share my approach step by step.

Preparation

  • before watching the presentation, grab a pen and a paper to write down most valuable ideas. You can use electronic notes as well, it really does not matter as long as you are prepared to capture the most important things

During the Presentation

  • listen carefully and be very focused
  • pause the presentation after every important idea and take a few seconds to reason about it. Then, write it down!
    • for example, I always keep references with links to the presentation (including the minute), to easily find the source later on when I revisit it.
  • if there are specific terms, acronyms or any details not well understood, I advise to pause the presentation and google them in order to get the whole idea. Besides that, there might succeed other concepts built on top of these, hence it is important to clarify everything in time
  • do not forget to replay few times if necessary (i.e. go backward and forwards) the most important parts to get stuck in our mind
  • at the end of the presentation, try to think or recall most important ideas

After the Presentation

  • if the presentation contains experiments or interesting ideas, try to apply them in practice on your own (i.e. open the IDE and write small programs to go deeply into the topics)
  • try to discuss with somebody else gathered ideas. It is important to present them in order to better reason and understand them. Richard Feynman said once “If you want to master something, teach it. A great way to learn is to teach!“, so try to master it by sharing the knowledge with others.
  • do not forget to revisit the topics and the presentation ideas from time to time to not forget them. For example, it happened to me to revisit few presentations multiple times until I fully got the entire picture and made stronger connections between the topics

Hopefully, with all these guidelines you might be able to watch in a more efficient way technical presentations and also to get maximum out of them.

Authorionutbalosin

Software Architect, Technical Trainer

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