On Brainstorming and Crayons

Scribble scribble scribble...

Posted by Katie McLaughlin on October 19, 2015

TFW you yo-yo between not having enough to talk about and having too much to talk about for an upcoming presentation?

Yeah, that feeling. - @glasnt

OSDC is coming up next week, and I’m doing a talk. I submitted three: two that I’ve given before, and a new one that I thought would be a fun exercise if it got accepted, but it was really a spur of the moment decision. Guess which one got accepted?

I’ve given a few “JavaScript Rant” lightning talks before, but this one is going to be a 40-minute slot, with 30-35 minutes of talking and time for questions. That’s quite a long time to fill.

I know a lot of things about this domain, and I know a lot of things that I’m apologetically ignorant of, but putting these ideas together into a linear sequence is hard.

I’ve spent a day with Damien Conway learning how to speak good, and one of the things that he suggested was a tool that I’ve used a few times since: paper and crayons.

Well, not crayons. I find them hard to write with. But have you seen the old-school cyber-crayons? Gosh! What I do enjoy, however, is a fresh clean notepad and a good pen. If I have these things, I’m not inhibited by the free-flowing of thoughts coming out of my head.

So yesterday, armed with two different colours of pens, I set to work. I located an old paperpad from a conference long ago, which had some advertisement plastered on the front, but the back of each sheet was pristine white. I took a bunch of these, and wrote down all the things I could about the subject into sections. I ripped these into chunks, and sorted them into piles of similarly themed information nuggets.

From there, I could work out a few general headlines, and was able to work out a linear flow of sections.

Taking these section headings, I wrote them at the top of fresh sheets of paper, and then re-added all the little info-nuggets into these sections. Some didn’t end up being transcribed. I added new stuff where I thought I didn’t have enough to fill a section. I added subsections.

Now I have a bundle of loose-leaf with a bunch of information on it, sitting next to me, being transcribed into slides for next week.

This exercise took me a few hours, sprawled out across the floor, but it really helped to get my story fleshed out and into some sort of order.

Now, all I have to do is deliver it. This will be fun. See you in Hobart.