Prepare for outreach
As a developer evangelist a lot of your job is going out there and tell the world about the things your company does (or technologies, techniques and methodologies it uses).
Your success in this is to a very large part relying on how the world sees you – are you a tech guru or somebody who just tries to sell their company or some product?
Your integrity is your main weapon – you have to make very sure that it stays intact. This means first and foremost that you need to prepare properly before going out there.
Get your facts right
You will be asked to talk about a certain new product. Make sure that you are up-to-date on the matter before you go and speak about it. Do not promise things that are not under your control. Talk to the product team and ask them in meticulous detail what the product is about, what works, what doesn't and so on. Be as skeptical as possible as this is what the people you are about to talk to will be.
Know the audience and their needs
Your communication should be targeted to the audience. People came to listen to you or read your article with a personal agenda – if you fulfill that agenda you win. Know what people expect and need and you can deliver. Otherwise you need to hope for the best which is never a good plan.
Going to conferences costs money. Going to free events where you speak costs time. Make it worth while for the people who do either and try to get something into your presentation that they can go back to their company with to wow their bosses. That way they will be able to go to more conferences and your other events.
Example: I once had to give a talk about Yahoo BOSS to a search engine optimisation crowd. They loved that Yahoo's search index is open for remixing but also were very aware that in the country I gave the talk Yahoo only had 5% of the search market. I worked around this by building Keywordfinder, thus giving them a cool tool to get keywords related to certain topics and showing them how versatile BOSS is.
Have expert backup
You cannot be the expert in everything. In the best case, when giving a presentation try to have an expert at hand to answer tricky questions for you. If there is no expert available at the time note down the question and follow it up after consultation. Do not promise to come back to someone and then forget to do so – that’ll make you look like you needed a fast way out! There are far too many speakers out there who play the “I'll get back to you” game.
Under no circumstances try to wing it and say things you are not sure the product team will be able to deliver. You are here to promote what can be used, not put pressure on your colleagues by promising the world the moon on a stick.
Choose the right medium
Your communication should be in the right format for the intended audience. This can range from slides, over videos and audio to live coding exercises or online step-by-step examples.
Tip: My rule of thumb is – the more technical the audience, the less you should use powerpoint or keynote. Show how you can code with the product, not how shiny it is or what its workflow is.
Plan for failure
Things will go wrong and you need to be prepared. In the case of a presentation do this:
- Have your slides online somewhere – in case your local copy dies.
- Have a memory stick with your data on it, in case you need to use a computer that is hard-wired into the AV system.
- Prepare to not have your slides available and still be able to do a Q&A session.
- Don't expect any technology to be available – bring your own connectors, power cables, network cables…
- Don't expect to be able to go online - or bring a 3G stick as backup if you really need to be.
- Aim for a 800 by 600 pixels resolution and expect the worst possible colour setting and very low contrast.
Example: I once was asked to give a presentation in a pub for about 60 people and when we arrived there was no projector or TV or anything bigger than my laptop. The workaround was to ask a colleague to bring a printout of the presentation and show it Bob Dylan - Subterranean Homesick Blues style.