Steve Poole

This is an interview with seasoned public speaker, IBM’s Steve Poole. Steve had a vision of creating a completely new kind of event as part of our Up Next initiative to mentor aspiring developers. The event titled “Find your Java voice” is happening in the evening of April 11th at IBM Southbank. You can RSVP here if you haven’t already:

We spoke to Steve and asked him questions about his vision for the event and why he feels getting involved in presenting is a great idea for developers.

Can you give us a tl;dr overview of the event and what is going to happen?

This event is designed to help give new speakers the chance to improve their presentation skills and gain a professional video of themselves speaking. We know how hard it can be for people to get a talk accepted at a conference. By having a video of themselves speaking it will help with conference selection committees who are looking for proof of presentation skills.

We’ll give every new speaker the chance to speak, be professionally filmed and receive feedback from our mentors. Since it doesn’t make sense to film the speaker before the advice we’ll give everyone the chance to speak first, get some feedback and then talk again later in the event where the will be filmed by IBM’s film crew.

Each new speaker has to come with a talk prepared. That’s not as scary as it sounds. We’re looking for a 5 minute talk (sometimes called a Lightning Talk) on any subject that has something to do with computers. No slides are needed (though not forbidden). Our main advice is to talk about what you know well. Whether it’s your experiences in installing Windows 10, what you think about <insert tech here>, how you wrote a really fast sort when you were 10 – The topic is not important. The important part is that it is a subject you know well.

The mentors will all be experienced speakers and will have many (and likely differing) opinions about speaking.

What are you hoping to achieve in this event?

That’s simple: help developers improve their career by gaining some vital speaking experience in a friendly but real life environment. I want our volunteer speakers to leave the event having had some fun, gained some useful advise and with a professionally produced video of them speaking.

Why do you think people should get involved as speakers?

Public speaking helps you with a few things. It certainly improves your confidence. Public speaking is often rated as a high stress activity but the reality is that it’s not actually that bad (trust me). People often think that they need to be the greatest ever expert on a topic before they could stand up and talk about it. That’s an incorrect view too. I would never claim to be ‘the’ expert. All my talks are through the lens of my experience. If I’m new to something I’ll share what I’ve learnt – as a newbie! So public speaking indirectly helps you throw off some of that ‘impostor syndrome’ that can hold you back.

Public speaking is generally good for your career. Personal visibility helps when looking for new opportunities and your talks will show others what you know.

Speaking also helps your communications skills across the board. The act of creating a presentation will teach you important aspects of presenting ideas and information to others. The confidence and personal insight you can get from speaking will helps you generally when dealing with other people in your life – whether difficult executives, or annoying cold callers, once you’ve spoken in front of an audience they will become easier to deal with.

Why do you think it’s important that junior speakers connect with mentors?

Having a mentor (at any stage of your life or career) helps you see things differently. It’s often easy to think you understand how the world works. With a single viewpoint you’re limited to using your single experience to predict and understand what you see. That can often lead to unfortunate under or over estimating the scale of new challenges. Having a mentor will help you get a different perspective and give you valuable insights. For this event I hope that the mentors present will help remove the mystique of public speaking and show that it’s not as scary as some believe.

Who would you recommend comes to the event?

We want three groups of people.

Firstly new (or nearly new) speakers. If you’ve willing to try standing in front of an audience for the first time or you’ve spoken at a conference once and want more help with your presentation skills this is the event for you.
Secondly we want seasoned mentors. You know who you are. Come along and pay forward the help that you got when learning how to be a public speaker.
Finally, and by no means last, we want an audience who will provide that realistic and positive experience for our new speakers.

Find your Java voice is happening in the evening of April 11th at IBM Southbank. You can RSVP here: You can also follow Steve Poole on twitter: @spoole167


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