Talk writing progress Emoji

I’ve given some conference talks over the past years, and I usually put lots of time into them (I wrote about how I prepare and write talks in this post).

So I want to document my writing process now – because what you see when a person delivers a talk is only a fraction of what they learned while writing it. Plus, what you see on stage is often the result of long struggles, thoughts about giving up, and many doubts and self-questioning, – all wrapped in some nice slides and brightly lighted on a stage. This page also aims to make this a bit more transparent. (Also, writing talks can sometimes be a very lonely experience. So this way, at least I get to talk to myself in public. And I get to use Emoji. ?✨)

Please don’t use this as advice on “how to write talks”. Please. I mean it. ❤️

Currently tracked in this document: Talk 1, Talk 2.

Talk 1: Works On My Machine, or the Problem is between Keyboard and Chair

Talk details:

  • The talk is about debugging, why the tech industry is a system full of bugs, and what we can do to debug it. Full abstract is here.
  • I’ll give the talk for the first time on May 13 at JSConf Budapest.
  • The talk is supposed to be 30mins long (that’s around 3,600-3,900 words for my speaking rate).
  • 14 days before the event, I hear that it will be the closing talk for the event. This is cool, but AAAAAAH.

Talk Progress

“t-xyz” is the number of days till I give the talk for the first time. Latest update is on the bottom.

  • ? t-87: Initial research on debugging techniques. Put together 4 pages of research, got super frustrated, close the document. Wonder why I even proposed this topic in the first place. Bad idea.
  • ? t-66: Ok, I have to do at least something.  I decide to skip the debugging topic altogether for now, and start with the other part of the talk about the tech industry.
  • ? t-65: Wrote 3,000 words yesterday. That escalated quickly.
  • ? t-60: Re-wrote my talk structure list, this time with many details on all main topics and sub-topics. This should help.
  • ? t-55: Only managed to write 200 words today. Not making progress right now. Still no idea about debugging. Frustrated.
  • ? t-54: Wrote many more words (1,000?). Talk is way too long already. BUT IT’S ALL IMPORTANT.
  • ☺️ t-52: Had a fantastic idea while washing the dishes. Forced myself to look into the debugging topic again. Realised: idea works. I can make this work.
  • ? t-51: I CAN’T MAKE THIS WORK.
  • ? t-48: But I have to make this work.
  • ? t-47: Drawing Keynote graphics like there’s no tomorrow.
  • ? t-40: Finished initial version of the talk. Exactly 7,489 words long, which means that it’s more than twice as long as it’s supposed to be. Target: 3,900 words.
  • ? t-39: Ahahahahahaha.
  • ? t-37: Deleted everything. So, no, not really. But moved my stuff to a new document, and only took the stuff with me that’s actually important.
  • ? t-36: Initial version number 2 of the talk is done. 5,200 words.
  • ? t-34: Debugging sucks. At least I only have to talk about it.
  • ✍️ t-28: Removed some stuff over the past days. Still too long. No idea what to kick out. Start building slides.
  • ⛈ t-27: Spent one afternoon choosing a color scheme for my slides (and downloading 20 fonts to try out). Why does this happen every single time.
  • ? t-26: Slide design done.
  • t-25: Wrote all slides. Drew all the Keynote graphics.
  • ? t-24: PANIC MODE STARTS.
  • ? t-23: PANIC
  • ? t-22: PANIC
  • t-20: I CAN’T DO THIS.
  • t-19: BUT I HAVE TO DO THIS.
  • ? t-18: I add my fully written talk to my slides as presenter notes. Remove more content.
  • t-17: Down to 3,900 words. BOOM!
  • ? t-16: Up to 4,100 words again. Damn it.
  • ? t-15: Rehearse the talk for the first time. During rehearsal, I add “!!” to every slide where I need to change things. “!!” is in every slide. Also, down to 3,900 words again.
  • ? t-14: Made all changes. Back up to 4,300 words. Rehearsing again. I hate this talk already. I don’t even want to hear myself speak anymore.
  • ? t-13: Get slide feedback. Change slides. Panic again.
  • ⚡️ t-12: Had a fantastic idea for the talk while cleaning my flat. Then I noticed that the idea needs to go into Talk 2. This is too confusing for me. Also: I panicked kind of in public in a Slack, and people said very nice things to me. I don’t believe any of it was true, but it was nice (and they people are awesome).
  • ? t-11: Changed one sentence 5 times today and it’s still not good. Decided to stop it for today and work on Talk 2 instead.
  • t-10: Cooked pasta, took a photo. Yes, it’s for the talk.
  • ? t-6: Focused on Talk 2 over the past days. Bad idea. Rehearsal today didn’t go well AT ALL. Completely changed the order of my talk parts. Super afraid rn.
  • ? t-5: Got helpful feedback. Still afraid. Feeling very “not sure if win” today.
  • ? t-4: I feel like every time I rehearse the talk, I make more changes.
  • ?❤️?✨? t+1: Gave the talk. Still not completely sure about it, and mostly happy that it’s over. But I got some very nice feedback, that helped. I’ll add the video here when it’s online.




  • The talk is about existing in the tech industry – why it can be difficult, and what we can do. Full abstract is here.
  • I’ll give the talk for the first time on on June 01 at CSSConf NO. It will be closing the event.
  • The talk is supposed to be 30mins long (that’s around 3,600-3,900 words for my speaking rate).


“t-xyz” is the number of days till I give the talk for the first time. Latest update is on the bottom.

  • ? t-60: I have a great feeling about this.
  • ? t-50: Over the past weeks, I’ve already collected around 30 links to resources that I’d like to put into the talk. I just dumped them into a note whenever I found something. Now I open a new document and copy-paste them there. Then I don’t know what to do next. Great start.
  • ? t-49: I stare at the links for 30mins, then give up. Going great.
  • ? t-45: I write a two pages long list that contains the complete talk structure – main topics, subtopics. This feels great.
  • ? t-44: Write the intro and write the first content for some subtopics. Found even more resources. I get a feeling that this talk is going to be way too long. Also: somehow super exhausted already. Maybe this whole topic hits a bit too close to home.
  • ? t-43: Write more, read a few of my resources. Right now, I like this talk way more than Talk 1 (but don’t tell Talk 1).
  • ? t-42: Write more. End up crying, because it hurts talking about this stuff.
  • ? t-40: Took a break yesterday and watched comedy shows to distract myself.
  • ? t-39: Continued by working on another, easier part. Still: all the feels.
  • ? t-38: Worked on the talk all day until midnight. Great progress. Don’t even have half the content in it, but at least it’s already 500 words too long. Awesome!
  • ? t-36: Moved everything to a new document. I neededto make a cut. Decide to cut out everything from the first part of the talk, and only add a summary of it. For the first time since I started speaking, I’ll put the whole Director’s Cut of the talk online before I give it, and will give the audience a shortlink. Director’s Cut will include all resources and everything I had to remove. Feeling relieved after making this decision. A+.
  • ? t-35: Wrote that summary. Summary is still 50% of the talk. Panic sets in.
  • ? t-34: Solid progress. Wrote more, found a good new angle for something.
  • ? t-33: Wrote 200 words. Yeay, me. MORE PANIC.
  • ? t-32: Talk is still 6,126 words long. Oops.
  • ? t-31: Nevermind! Had a great new idea for a twist in the talk. Doing research on it. Adding it. Will worry about talk length problem later. (Note to Future Me: this is what you’ll get angry about in a few days.)
  • ? t-30: At least I have a slide design I can re-use \o/ Removing lots of stuff again. I still have 5 topics in there that I’d like to discuss, but will most likely have to kick out ? Next up: adding all speaker notes to my slides. Later tonight, or tomorrow.
  • ?? t-29: Everything is crap, but at least I have banana bread.
  • ? t-28: Last night, I thought about kicking out my first main section of the talk (which is 50% of the talk). Still thinking about it. Also, almost finished slide design (of course I ended up not re-using design from Talk 1). And it’s pretty nice (which will probably not keep me from completely changing it tomorrow). ALSO: Reached target word count. HELL YES. ?
  • ? t-27: Gave up. Looked for music scores instead. Found nice ones. Off to making music. ??
  • ☕️ t-27, pt. 2: That ? was last night (and the “off to playing” was a lie). Now over-caffeinated and panicking. First run-through starting now. ? … and made me realise I had to re-write the perspective of the talk. Which I did. Then rehearsed again. Getting there. (But still huge doubts about the whole topic and approach. Ugh. ?) Also, I think I’ll take a break from all talks tomorrow. Talk 1 is due next week, and I can’t keep on panicking like this.
  • ☎️? t-15: Gave Talk 1 last week and had to take a break from working on this one. Had a great call with someone about the talk, and they gave super helpful feedback. Did a run-through afterwards, and I feel okay-ish about it? Still not sure if it’s too superficial though.
  • ??? t-8: More feedback from Jenn, who also copy-edited it (Jenn is the best ?). Another run-through. Not feeling confident, but can’t change that anymore. Now almost off to giving Talk 1 again, so no time to really panic.
  • ⚠️? t-3: OOOPS. Time! Another run-through and adding “!!” to all parts that needed changes. Ended up with 33 times “!!”. Fixed everything. Changed talk dynamics. Also: packed my stuff. Leaving my place to travel to Oslo in 13hrs.