FP-Syd currently operates as a working group, with a rotating roster of core members that are responsible for organising talks each month. These talks form the heart of the programme and can be of any length, though somewhere between 15 and 50 minutes is a good guide.
If a rostered speaker cannot give a talk in their slot, then they are expected to swap with someone else or at least give a few weeks notice.
We also invite lightning talks of 5-15 minutes, which are scheduled on a month-to-month basis depending on availability. Speakers are always welcome to show up and give unrehearsed lighting talks on the night.
Talk Formats and the Jockey (Proposal)
Fp-Syd talks are often based on work in progress, or ideas and technologies the speaker is currently learning. In these situations, talk formats based on university lectures and conference presentations usually aren't appropriate. Before giving a talk, consider how "well baked" the presentation is:
- Well Baked: the talk is about your own work, and it's something you've presented before to a different audience.
- Half baked: the talk is about something you understand well enough, but you haven't presented it before, or you made the slides in a hurry.
- Unbaked: the talk is about someone else's work, a paper you've just read, or an idea you've just come up with or are working on.
All level of baked-ness are acceptable at FP-Syd, but the talk format needs to be adjusted to suit. As the level of baked-ness decreases, the audience participation must increase, otherwise the audience will be left behind without any clue as to what the speaker is talking about. The usual problem is that the speaker won't yet know how to present the material, what to focus on, or at what level to pitch it.
For this reason we have a designated "Talk Jockey" for each presentation, whose explicit role is to ask questions about anything they don't understand. The jockey also tries to judge how well the audience is following the presentation, and can instruct the speaker to slow down, provide more examples, or try to re-explain something they feel the audience has missed. At venues without a jockey this process sometimes happens organically, as the audience will ask their own questions, but at FP-Syd we also designate a specific jockey to ensure it does happen. Research working groups such as WG2.8 use a similar model.
The jockey also has an important dual role: they can instruct the speaker to speed up, or to skip over material they feel the audience already understands. FP-Syd talks have no fixed length, but they can't run forever. Having a jockey helps to guide the presentation and ensures that we make good use of the available time.
- The session chair designates a jockey for each talk. Ideally, the jockey should have an average level of familiarity with the material to be presented, relative to the overall audience. If they are too familiar then they probably won't need to ask questions. If they are very unfamiliar they probably won't know what questions to ask.
- The jockey should talk to the speaker for a few minutes before the presentation, to get a sense of how much material there is to cover, along with a rough estimate of talk length.
- The jockey should sit at the front of the room, so they can get a good view of both the audience and presentation.
- During the presentation, if the jockey doesn't understand something, or feels the audience doesn't understand, then they should slow down the speaker and ask questions.
- If the jockey feels the speaker is presenting something the audience already understands well, then they should instruct the speaker to speed up, or skip it. It's better to spend time on the hard stuff rather than the easy stuff.
- The jockey should keep track of the time, and ensure the talk runs for a reasonable length. A reasonable length is enough time to convey the key ideas but not so long that the audience gets bored with it. Further discussion can always be taken to the pub, or continued at the next meeting.