Welcome to the voxgig newsletter for tech speakers, 23 Mar 2018

This week, in recognition of World Poetry Day (March 21st), I’d like to introduce you to some ways in which poetry can help improve a talk, taking it from good to great.

The observations below are from poets, public speaking coaches, and communications experts.

1. What makes poetry so special?Dr. Jim Anderson, public speaking coach

“It’s pretty bold for me to call poetry the “special sauce” of public speaking. Maybe I’m going to have to back that statement up. Perhaps we should start with a definition of just exactly what poetry is:

Poetry (from the Greek ‘poiesis’/ποίησις [poieo/ποιέω] a making: a forming, creating, or the art of poetry, or a poem) is a form of literary art in which language is used for its aesthetic and evocative qualities in addition to, or in lieu of, its apparent meaning. 

Ah ha – now we’re getting somewhere. Clearly poetry is more than just words. It’s carefully selected words that have been put together in a particular way in order to generate a response in people who hear it.” – Source

2. Why use poetry during your talkDr. Ira A. Virtanen, communications researcher

“A great speech speaks to the minds and the hearts of the listener. When the goals of the speaker and the listener are met, the speech can be considered to be a success. You need to choose the content of the speech in a way that it addresses the concerns that the listener has and to use words that the listener understands, that speak to the many layers of who we are as people. Finding common ground, finding a space in which the speaker and the listener are equal or recognize the similarities in each other is most beneficial. Poetry is such a vessel: poems describe experience that we all can relate to.” – Source

3. When to use poetryEdmund Chow, public speaker and drama coach

“Because people remember you based on first and last impressions, what you say in the first and last twenty seconds will make or break your reputation as a speaker. If you get the last bit right, what you say at the end will most probably linger on long after your speech is over. Words produce an after-taste. So learn to end your speech powerfully.” – Source

4. What type of poem to useEdmund Chow, public speaker and drama coach
“Poems often conjure up feelings. So in order to feel the tone of the poem, try to vary the pauses, find where the words might rhyme. By the way, not all poems rhyme. You should read it with ease and flow. What happens if you pause on a word for two breaths? What effect would it have? Try new ways of reading it with feeling. Can you read it with anger? With joy? With grief? When you know when to pick up speed or slow down, you would have made that poem your own interpretation.” – Source

5. How to deliver your poemPages Matam, spoken word poet

“Most people don’t fully engage their diaphragm. Rather, they rely too much on their throats, which not only strains your voice over time, but produces a weaker sound, instead of the round, full sound spoken word poets are known for. To engage the full support of your breath, inhale, allowing your stomach to expand with breath, and speak during exhale. The result will be a fuller, projected sound that won’t strain your vocal chords.” – Source

Tell me…

What is your biggest challenge as a tech speaker?

This newsletter is for you. I want it to include hints, tips and strategies that resonate with you.

So go ahead, hit reply and tell me what you find challenging as a speaker.

Email me at richard@voxgig.com. You can tweet too: @voxgig

I will address the most pressing issues in each edition.

Speaker Profile

Sarah Kay giving Ted talk
If I Should Have a Daughter. [V]
Sarah Kay
Sarah Kay is writer of poetry, an educator, and the founder and co-director of Project VOICE. She uses meaningful gestures to bring her points to life, connecting the last point to the next. Notice how her eyes follow her gestures, creating a connection between each one, showing she is visualising in her mind’s eye the narrative she is painting. Obviously well prepared, she believes in what she is saying. This talk in essence becomes a bit of a performance rather than just words flowing from paper to mouth. And she does it all without missing a beat. I bet she put some dedicated thought and time into this one!
Learn from the best

Prince EA
I Just Sued the School System [V]
Prince EA
While this is a spoken word performance, professionally produced and filmed, it is still a great example of the power of structuring your talk with a single core concept. In this case, the conceit of the courtroom drama is used to personify the modern education system. Conceptually, modern education is on trial, accused of failing to nurture human potential.Prince Ea’s delivery is to die for. But that is not the lesson here. The lesson is that he can focus on delivery because the single theme, the core concept of the courtroom trial, is a deep well to draw metaphors from. He can frame his idea, which is complex and abstract, using the concrete and tangible courtroom space and characters. We all know this frame of reference. It is familiar territory. Prince Ea has less explaining to do – he uses the courtroom to show us his ideas. Find a powerful source of metaphor, and your arguments will all hang from the same conceptual core.

Still I Rise book cover
And Still I Rise
Dr. Maya Angelou
Dr. Maya Angelou deals with discrimination and prejudice beautifully in a way that encourages you to think about your own perceptions, consider your own norms and develop a better understanding of yourself. We must all use our voice to rise above our difficulties, deal with discrimination and claim our place in a world that we are trying to improve for future generations.
How to Memorize Poetry [blog]
Nelson Dellis
Excerpt:“There are a few ways to go about memorising text. The first is to do it by rote – by pure repetition. If you have the time and you enjoy torture, this is the method for you. But I don’t recommend it at all. Because torture is not fun. It’s torture.The second approach is to use a journey or a memory palace to store pieces of the text.”Full text.
Three Conferences

Devnet logo
DevNet Create 2018, CA, USA
The hands-on developer conference where applications meet infrastructure.” This two-day conference takes place in a cool and very relevant venue – The Computer History Museum, located in the Silicon Valley city of Mountain View. Catch one of the great speakers scheduled or participate in hands-on learning opportunities. New this year is Camp Create, a two-day coding experience during the conference. How cool is it to have a conference in the computer history museum?!

BSides OK Logo
BSides OK 2018, Oklahoma, USA
If you’re looking for information security training and a conference all in one place, BSides Oklahoma is where you want to be. The conference itself is a one-day event and is preceded by two days of hands-on training in improving security. All this takes place in the Tulsa metro city of Glenpool, whose city tagline is “Creating opportunity.” Sounds good to me!

Isle of Ruby logo
Isle of Ruby, Exeter, UK
Is it a conference or is it a festival? It’s both! This “conference for human Rubyists” aspires to be more than just a tech conference. It’s about encouraging the community to consider how the work they do affects the world around them. Topics around this subject will be discussed, with plenty of Ruby talks as well. Talks, workshops, activities and accommodation are included in the ticket for this three-day event in the ancient city of Exeter, UK.
CFP Calendar
These are the CFP deadline dates and submission pages.

A favour…
Can I ask you for a favour? If you enjoy this newsletter, and if you find it useful, please consider recommending it to a friend who is learning to give technical talks, or who aspires to do so. I meet so many cool programmers who have brilliant things to share with the world—that’s you!

Please help me to improve this newsletter – I’d love to hear your suggestions! You can email me directly at richard@voxgig.com. You can tweet too: @voxgig. Thank you so much for reading!

A special thanks and shout out to TammyCora, and David for helping to make this newsletter even better!


Thank you! Please let me know what you think!