PyCon 2017 Talk

The PyCon talk which I’ve been preparing for with steadily increasing stress levels since February happened three weeks ago at PyCon 2017 in Portland. Time to post a quick retrospective!

The recording of the talk is up on Youtube. Huge props to the PyCon organizers for posting all talk recordings publicly every year. This year the videos were up less than 24 hours after the talk!

I also put together Github Gist with links and notes to go along with the talk, and the slide deck is up on Speakerdeck (although the slide deck only covers what was on screen for half of the talk, the other half consisting of the demo).

How did it go? – It really couldn’t have gone any better! Following my usual unhealthy style of pressure-promtedness, both demo and presentation came together not a second too early and the week before PyCon was a blur of slide making, demo tweaking, and shooting backup videos. Every minute of prep was worth it because, amazingly, the presentation and demo went without a hitch. On the demo side of things, there wasn’t even a single barcode reader miss (something I was worried about because of the unpredictable lighting on stage). And on the presentation side, it was exciting to have a very engaged audience (you can hear some of it in the video recording) and get lots of topical questions after the presentation.

Also quite exciting is what I didn’t do: Short of one bolt that needed tightening, the demo system required no tweaking or fixing while in Portland. Agonizing over the logistics of this talk from how to pack the demo for the flight1 to wording of the intro2 really paid off.

And I received lots of positive feedback too!

The serendipitous addition of a rubber duck to the conveyor belt demo turned out to create a bigger audience response than the chewing gum sorter which was meant to be the highlight of the talk.

For reference, here is the intended highlight of the talk: The Chewing Gum Sorting Factory.

Because my presentation was on the first out of three days of talks, I got to talk with many other attendees who stopped me in the hallway or came to the “open session” I scheduled on Saturday. It was delightful to hear about projects others have been working on, from Raspberry Pi tutorials to automated greenhouses. I also met a few others who have used Python in industrial automation applications, proving my theory that I’m not the only one in this small niche!

Since I got back home from Portland, I’ve been busy with “other stuff” and I still haven’t unpacked the demo from the suitcase it’s in. And I have no idea what to do with it once I unpack it. Prepare another talk around it? Sell the components to recoup some of the money? If you have an idea, please send me a message via email ( or on Twitter!


  1. While researching packaging options I came across InstaPak RT which has now earned its spot in the cool-things-that-come-in-handy-once-a-decade storage bin. It’s a plastic bag contains two pouches (probably unhealthy) materials that, once activated, rapidly expand into the bag and set into a hard foam. 

  2. I’ve made it a habit to have a written script for the first 30 seconds of any talk and rehearse them excessively. Not having to think during these moments helps calm down from the sometimes stressful experience of getting set up for the talk. It also frees up the mind to look around the room and get a sense of where people sit, what they are doing, and if there are any familiar faces. After those first few sentences, I’m usually settled in enough to “wing it” and prefer speaking without a fixed script and often have spare slides to adjust the presentation to audience reactions and timing.