Screaming in the Cloud

Episode 39: Give 10 Bad Talks All in a Row and Then Get Fired

Do you like to hear yourself talk? Especially while on a stage and in front of a lot of people? How do you come up with ideas to talk about? What process do you use to build a conference talk or presentation?

Today, we’re talking to Matty Stratton of PagerDuty. His job involves building conference talks and finding ways to continuously improve them. Public speaking can be intimidating, so he shares some tips and tricks that have worked for him.

Some of the highlights of the show include:

  • Avoid creating something brand new for every event
  • Don’t tell flattering stories about things that happened to you; may be uplifting, but doesn't resemble reality
  • Failure stories are fantastic because people relate to making terrible decisions
  • Everyone who gives a talk panics, gets nervous, and thinks they’re about a sentence away from stammering and falling off the stage; almost never happens
  • Audience wants you to succeed because they're there to learn; no one is hoping a presenter messes up
  • Preparation is key; could build a talk at the last minute, but it would be much better, if you prepared for it
  • Don’t intentionally try to think of something; have conversations with people and listen to other talks to develop anecdotes, stories, and cold opens
  • Humor can be tricky; what you think is funny, other people might not
  • Make things memorable; show good ideas by showing bad ideas - it’s the ‘don't do this, do this instead’ model
  • Submit early and often, but submit appropriately; if you are always submitting stuff that’s inappropriate for an event, your stuff starts to be ignored
  • Sometimes, you may want to avoid slides that auto advance; if you trip over yourself: Stop, repeat, back up,  take questions, etc.
  • Try not to read from notes or slides; takes the life and engagement out of the talk
  • People can only do one thing at a time - listen or read
  • Practice: Record yourself every time you practice and watch it; focus on blocking and tackling
  • You have about 45 seconds to grab people's interest before they look at their phone; get them engaged via a story, picture, or anecdote


Brought to you by Corey Quinn of Screaming in the Cloud