Speaking Culture

NOTICE: this may ruffle some feathers!

This is an attempt to put thoughts into words. To document how I think, we as a company, should be looking at the practice of public speaking. Whether a presentation at a large conference or lightning talks over lunch with your teammates.

Before I begin, a little background on how I arrived at this opinion. At the end of 2013, I started reflecting on my contributions to the technical community. I realized that I had a great passion for speaking and communicating my ideas to my peers. I also realized I hadn’t made much of an effort to contribute back to the community. So… an effort was made to up the ante. I concentrated on presenting as often as possible during 2014. At the end of 2014, I had presented at 13 conferences. 2015 is starting off well, with two conferences booked. Hope to see many of you during the 2015 year… I will be presenting at Agile and Beyond 2015 and self.conference 2015.

Enough with the background information… why am I writing this article?

So… I started thinking about how I currently approach public speaking. Questioning my approach and involvement within the technical community.

  • the technical community I rely on to remain pertinent.
  • the technical community I should be advancing.
  • the technical community relying on my participation in order to remain successful.

I took this a couple steps farther and started thinking about how the company I spend most of my time with and the peers I work with on a daily basis, are actually treating the practice of public speaking.

and my evaluation … it didn’t go well.

**NOTICE: ALERT

I am disappointed in my co-workers, my peers, and myself. We are not putting enough emphasis on the practice (art) of public speaking. We should be encouraging each other to present as often as possible, but we are not! Whether we speak at conferences or meetups or intra-company lightning talks held over lunch. We need to just get in front of people and speak.

A great place to start is the intra-company lightning talk. Where you can practice your chops in a comfortable and safe place, before moving on to a bigger venue.


I would like to encourage each of you to look at public speaking for the following reasons…

  • it is a great way to convey your ideas to a large group of people.
  • it is a great way to have a public version of your resume (speaker deck does a nice job of showing off your work).
  • it is a great recruiting tool… like-minded people interested in the same types of topics and ideas would probably make great co-workers.
  • heck… marketing is interested as well… our company is already taking great advantage of this.

The effort of public speaking needs to be a two-sided effort. Each employee should put thoughts to paper (slides) and the company should expect its employees to present on topics they are interested in.

Pillar has been supportive of public presentation. In my personal experience, each time I am given the opportunity to present (as a Pillar employee)… I have yet to be denied…

  • always given time-off from the client
  • payment of expenses have been covered (many conferences cover a large part of a presenters expenses… hotel, gas, flight, etc.)
  • promotion of the presentation… twitter, website, sponsorship at the conference

In our case… the employee is the part of the equation most lacking… and we will start there.

Consider you need to teach ‘something to someone’. Consider you really do not know what you are talking about until you start teaching someone. The process of working through how you will teach a person will force you to break down each step into it’s smallest and cleanest possible elements. Take a minute and think about how you would teach someone the practice of test-driven development. How many steps are required to teach this topic? Step back and teach that same person how to tie their shoe. Imagine they know nothing and they are not convinced they want to learn how to tie their shoes. Learning to tie your shoes will be dozens of small steps… TDD’ing will be tens of dozens. Simple is the key here.

Do not just get up in front of your peers and read the slides or lecture. Tell a freakin’ story. People want to be entertained. They want to know you are interested in standing up in front of them and teaching them something. It doesn’t need to be funny, it helps, but entertaining and interesting are a must. How many presentations have you seen where the presentation was boring and way to scripted. This doesn’t mean the presentation shouldn’t be practiced and polished, but it shouldn’t be a regurgitated repeat of the slide notes. It should be a conversation… the attendees want to be in the presence of someone that is passionate about the topic of which they are speaking.


So… how does this public speaking ‘thing’ actually make you a better person… a better employee? I believe that each time I am asked to stand up in front of my peers and asked to convey some idea to the masses… it changes me. It forces me to look at things differently. I am expected to think outside of my normal thoughts and consider the thoughts of everyone that will be attending the presentation.

Public speaking is public resume… a live public resume of what you are passionate about. But, more than a public resume, presenting on a regular basis is a great way to provide leadership to the technical community. I would caution from presenting yourself as a community leader just because you want to be known in the community. You should be presenting because it is the right thing to do. Do not present because your company wants you to present… because you want to share your thoughts and lessons with your peers.

It keeps your employees feeling fresh, and when they get back they’ll be ready to tackle the hard problems.NOTICE: this may ruffle some feathers!

This is an attempt to put thoughts to words. To document how I think, we as a company, should be looking at the practice of public speaking. Whether a presentation at a large conference or lightning talks over lunch with your teammates.

Before I begin, a little background on how I arrived at this opinion. At the end of 2013, I started reflecting on my contributions to the technical community. I realized that I had a great passion for speaking and communicating my ideas to my peers. I also realized I hadn’t made much of an effort to contribute back to the community. So… an effort was made to up the ante. I concentrated on presenting as often as possible during 2014. At the end of 2014, I had presented at 13 conferences. 2015 is starting off well, with two conferences booked. Hope to see many of you during the 2015 year… I will be presenting at Agile and Beyond 2015 and self.conference 2015.

Enough with the background information… why am I writing this article?

So… I started thinking about how I currently approach public speaking. Questioning my approach and involvement within the technical community.

  • the technical community I rely on to remain pertinent.
  • the technical community I should be advancing.
  • the technical community relying on my participation in order to remain successful.

I took this a couple steps farther and started thinking about how the company I spend most of my time with and the peers I work with on a daily basis, are actually treating the practice of public speaking.

and my evaluation … it didn’t go well.

**NOTICE: ALERT

I am disappointed in my co-workers, my peers, and myself. We are not putting enough emphasis on the practice (art) of public speaking. We should be encouraging each other to present as often as possible, but we are not! Whether we speak at conferences or meet-ups or intra-company lightning talks held over lunch. We need to just get in front of people and speak.

A great place to start is the intra-company lightning talk. Where you can practice your chops in a comfortable and safe place, before moving on to a bigger venue.


I would like to encourage each of you to look at public speaking for the following reasons…

  • it is great way to convey your ideas to a large group of people.
  • it is a great way to have a public version of your resume (speakerdeck does a nice job of showing off your work).
  • it is a great recruiting tool… like-minded people interested in the same types of topics and ideas would probably make great co-workers.
  • heck… marketing is interested as well… our company is already taking great advantage of this.

The effort of public speaking needs to be a two-sided effort. Each employee should put thoughts to paper (slides) and the company should expect it’s employees to present on topics they are interested in.

Pillar has been supportive of public presentation. In my personal experience, each time I am given the opportunity to present (as a Pillar employee)… I have yet to be denied…

  • always given time-off from the client
  • payment of expenses have been covered (many conferences cover a large part of a presenters expenses… hotel, gas, flight, etc.)
  • promotion of the presentation… twitter, website, sponsorship at the conference

In our case… the employee is the part of the equation most lacking… and we will start there.

Consider you need to teach ‘something to someone’. Consider you really do not know what you are talking about until you start teaching someone. The process of working through how you will teach a person will force you to break down each step to it’s smallest and cleanest possible elements. Take a minute and think about how you would teach someone the practice of test driven development. How many steps are required to teach this topic? Step back and teach that same person how to tie their shoe. Imagine they know nothing and they are not convinced they want to learn how to tie their shoes. Learning to tie your shoes will be dozens of small steps… TDD’ing will be tens of dozens. Simple is the key here.

Do not just get up in front of your peers and read the slides or lecture. Tell a freakin’ story. People want to be entertained. They want to know you are interested in standing up in front of them and teaching them something. It doesn’t need to be funny, it helps, but entertaining and interesting are a must. How many presentations have you seen where the presentation was boring and way to scripted. This doesn’t mean the presentation shouldn’t be practiced and polished, but it shouldn’t be a regurgitated repeat of the slide notes. It should be a conversation… the attendees want to be in the presence of someone that is passionate about the topic of which they are speaking.


So… how does this public speaking ‘thing’ actually make you a better person… a better employee ? I believe that each time I am asked to stand up in front of my peers and asked to convey some idea to the masses… it changes me. It forces me to look at things differently. I am expected to think outside of my normal thoughts and consider the thoughts of everyone that will be attending the presentation.

Public speaking is public resume… a live public resume of what you are passionate about. But, more than a public resume, presenting on a regular basis is a great way to provide leadership to the technical community. I would caution from presenting yourself as a community leader just because you want to be known in the community. You should be presenting because it is the right thing to do. Do not present because your company wants you to present… because you want to share your thoughts and lessons with your peers.

It keeps your employees feeling fresh, and when they get back they’ll be ready to tackle the hard problems.

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