Giving your first International talk – Recon2019 & BlackHat

Introduction

I don’t usually write this kind of posts, but after giving my first international talk (YEAHHH!) I would like to share my experience with you since this can be useful to everyone who hasn’t talked yet against a big audience as it could be Recon in Montreal or any other big conference.

My idea is to show you my experience with the goal of motivating you all. Giving a talk in a security conference is usually one important and huge step into your professional life, and I’ve enjoyed it so much that I want to encourage you all to do the same.

With all that said, I want to remember you that this is my own opinion and I will explain the things I found helpful during the preparation for the con.

Call For Paper

We all know that in order to be selected and present in any security conference you usually need to send an Abstract, which will allow to the organization to evaluate your talk and select it between the other options.

This step, is for obvious reasons one of the most important ones. Without a good Abstract, there is no talk. Therefore, creating a good narrative about your research is a key factor here. Things that usually need to be written into the abstract:

  • Title
  • Second Title
  • Short Description
  • Long Description
  • Length of presentation (this will depend on the conference)

Additional, some personal information such as a brief biography is usually required. In this part, it is important to show why you are a good candidate to talk about the topic your are presenting (experience, motivation, previous researches, etc).

Humans love to hear stories. Although security conferences are mostly technical, you have to engage people on your speech. That’s why when presenting your talk, remember to include anecdotes, interesting situation, and problems you have overcome so they can feel identified and interested by what you are telling. For example, you can explain a context/current state of art, and start from it to introduce people in your topic, showing what you have achieved and the impact of it. Don’t forget to aim to get the attention of new people on the field as well as professionals with experience.

As a key aspect on this step, I will strongly recommend you to show your abstract to friends, co-workers and family. Even if they don’t know about the topic, they should understand the main idea of the talk and feel some sort of interest for what you are trying to present. By doing this you can increase your chances to catch the attention of the reviewers 🙂

Presentation

Looking at previous presentation may give you a lot of useful information about the slide format, the content, time and most important, how to show the results. Blackhat‘s site has many good examples of abstract and video presentation of previous years, don’t forget to take a look at them.

Dry Runs

Do Dry Runs, get your friends/co-workers and present to them the whole talk, show them the material, and make it as real as possible. Demo included. You will be able to practice in front of people that is technical (or not), and obtain a valuable feedback from them. Specially if there is people who have already presented before and can give you information based on their experience. (btw, huge thanks to everyone that helped me during this process)

Don’t forget about the demo, they always fail, and this is the perfect moment to have your first fail and learn from it. You can anticipate and prevent all those nasty problems during your real presentation. Don’t forget to bring a video back up of your demo.

Watching other presentations on YouTube may help you to learn from them and see what you can improve to your slides, the way you talk and show your material.

Minutes before the Presentation

Stay calm, yep, it’s easy to say but not do do, I know. However, if you are able to keep calm you will really love this experience, you will enjoy presenting all the work you have done, and sharing it with the audience.

Don’t forget to grab a glass of water, and bring it with you. Make sure your laptop is full charged, notifications disallowed so you avoid weird pop-ups while you are talking (I got a windows update pop-up during BH)

Bring as MANY back ups of your slides as possible, Google Drive, pen-drives. Don’t forget to have a format back up, if you created your slides by using PowerPoint, export them to PDF, just in case you need to present in another laptop which does not have the same software/operative system.

Conclusions

ENJOY ENJOY and ENJOY! Sometimes we only think on the goal: Presenting at the Con. But carrying out the research have to be enjoyed too. Do not only think on the final goal, but also on the process, all the things you can learn and how you can grow during this process 🙂

I hope this can motivate people to give their first presentation and jump into this amazing world! I really enjoyed 🙂 Good luck!