Presenter Series: Coding in Front of People

You’re on stage, you’ve practiced your presentation and the live coding demonstration portion. You start typing away. Typo! Backup and try again. Another typo! Backup and try again, give the audience a joke so you don’t lose them.

You got your point across, but the typos were distracting to the audience. How to do it better?

When done well, live coding is captivating and will solidify your talk in the minds of those watching.

Today we want to share three times you should let your computer do the heavy lifting as you live code. Taking the pressure off you as a presenter and letting your talk run smoothly.

Chunks of uninteresting code

Most code can’t live in a vacuum. This means that the code you want to show off often needs extra code written just to make it work.

If you have this code prepared before your talk you can easily insert it into your live coding session.

For example, when demoing something you can do once you’ve read a file into your program, you probably don’t want to bore the audience by writing the code to read the file.

Using TextExpander you could have a snippet called :read-file and it would complete to your code to read files.

Sample data

A good presenter doesn’t seem too scripted; having dynamic sample data is a big help.

Some people like to ask the audience to shout out example data. We’ve found this to have mixed results and can slow down a talk.

A cleaner more efficient way is to have some random sample data prepared. We’ve covered this in a recent article about generating sample email addresses. Just apply that idea to any other sample chunks of data you might need.

Example of how easily you should show the correct syntax for adding a figure in HTML

Typing Tricky Commands

The command line is an incredibly powerful and often used tool in technical talks.

Some commands are trickier than others. This is why we’ve written up How to Instantly Insert Your Most Used Bash Commands. This is another great example of code chunks you can prepare in TextExpander ahead of time.

The last thing you want to do is mistype something in front of a room full of people. It happens and the audience probably won’t remember after only a couple times, but as the presenter you will feel flustered and we don’t want that.

Presenting isn’t just for conferences

Live coding isn’t just for presenting at conferences. Demoing code can come up in your day-to-day work life. Being a really good technical presenter is somewhat of a rarity and will certainly make you more in demand within your team and the industry in general.

In other parts of this series we’re going to cover more of how you can be excellent at talk preparation and promotion.

What was the last talk you loved?

What was the last talk on any topic that you really enjoyed? Let us know at @TextExpander and on Facebook.