The Importance of Public Speaking as a Modern Software Developer
Software development is not for the faint of heart. Most of us spend years learning a multitude of programming languages and toolsets. Then just when we’ve got it all figured out, new technologies shove the old stuff out of the way! And now we’re being asked to lead presentations?
While many software developers come from diverse backgrounds, it’s no secret that we share a great and deep fear: public speaking. Most of us are introverts who are highly involved in what we do. Frankly, we find it challenging to communicate with ‘normies’ outside the IT world.
Regardless, it’s time we discuss the importance of public speaking.
The Importance of Public Speaking
PandaWaiver is an excellent tool for generating online waivers. Unfortunately, we’ve effectively “signed waivers” for our right to avoid public speaking long ago. Whether in a Zoom meeting, FaceTime, conference call, or in-person, meetings are here to stay.
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Most developers avoid speaking in public at all costs for the following reasons:
- We are introverts.
- We don’t always have the patience to explain technical areas.
- We’d rather write code, run Q/A tests, or anything else.
- There’s a fear of not being listened to or misunderstood.
- We prefer to avoid the spotlight.
- Non-IT team members simply don’t “get it.”
The list goes on ad infinitum. But in today’s world, software developers can no longer hide behind a computer. New skills are becoming increasingly important in the role—and that includes public speaking.
Benefits of Public Speaking
Successful software developers constantly learn new skills and niche products. But what about the pursuit of transferable skills? In a modern, fast-moving world, public speaking is the one skill to rule them all!
The importance of public speaking lies with how it benefits yourself and those around you:
Better communication: You must be able to articulate complex technical concepts in non-technical language and layperson’s terms. Public speaking helps you to develop clear and concise language that anyone can understand. This means you better communicate your ideas to management, stakeholders, and other team members.
Improved teamwork: Collaboration is a key component of software development. Getting out of your comfort zone to speak in front of a group helps you build relationships with your colleagues. Greater trust will help break down silos, drive increased collaboration on projects, and provide more innovative problem-solving.
Develop as a leader: If you’re a talented developer, you may be asked to take on leadership roles. Public speaking skills are not only for Ted Talks and webinars; the same skillset will help you motivate and inspire your teams.
Career advancement and job opportunities: We’ve noted that developers aren’t known for their social gifts. But effective communication helps you outshine your peers. No matter how small or large, you never know who may listen in on your next presentation—say hello to your next job offer or promotion!
Become a thought leader: The more you talk about a topic in non-technical terms, the more you will have to study it. A greater understanding makes you a subject matter expert. Due to good public speaking skills, others will turn to you as a thought leader in your niche.
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Public Speaking Tips for Software Developers
Despite the importance of public speaking, just the thought of standing in front of others makes some people grip their keyboards in fear. Here are some tips on how to become more competent and confident.
Free to use image sourced from Unsplash
It’s the Little Things
Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Start by volunteering to present or lead small team meetings. Then step up to proposals that involve management and decision-makers. Soon you will feel confident presenting on a stage full of your peers and the public.
Practice, Practice, Practice, Practice
When writing code, we have automated solutions, team leaders, and other redundancies for debugging, reporting, and gaining valuable feedback. Approach public speaking the same way. Practice dry runs in front of your team members and managers, and be open to feedback.
You can use tools like Survey Monkey, Google Forms, and SecureDocSharing to hand out surveys for feedback (or opt for trusty sheets of paper and pencils).
Use Visuals With a Purpose
Visual aids help meeting attendees pay attention and gain additional information from whoever is speaking. You can use PowerPoint slides, GIFs, JPEGs, and spreadsheets to your heart’s content. Just make sure they are adding to your message.
You can also increase audience engagement by bringing along physical aids that have a story attached to them. Don’t forget, much of non-verbal communication is visual. Use emotive facial expressions and hand gestures to get your point across.
Use the Right Tools
It’s always helpful to use equipment that boosts your presentation. A poor visual or audio experience will distract from the message. Consider the following tools for public speaking:
Web camera/microphone: Use a quality Bluetooth headset that will give you the freedom to walk around. Consider a model that filters background noise (this can also be done with software), especially when presenting virtual meetings. In addition, a quality webcam will make it much easier for participants to actively listen to you if you’re hosting a video meeting.
Background: Keep a neat, neutral, and professional background for your speaking environments. You want attendees to be able to focus on you and your message.
Lighting: Depending on whether virtual or in-person, tailor the lighting to enhance the experience. Lots of natural light will prevent distracting shadows from creeping across the room (or your face). In addition, ensure no direct light sources are in front of the camera while web-casting.
Focus on a Single Person
Many of us find it easier to explain something face-to-face than a large group. You can ease into public speaking by choosing one of two approaches:
- Think of a friend, colleague, or family member and imagine you’re speaking directly with them.
- Focus on someone in the meeting that you know and explain your ideas directly to them.
Hone Your Public Speaking Skills
Whether we like it or not, public speaking is here to stay. Rather than fight against industry trends, you can embrace change by gaining new and highly transferable skills.
So, the next time you’re asked to present at a meeting, consider it a chance to hone your skills. Take the opportunity to grow and learn valuable skills that will make you a great asset as a software developer.
About the Writer
Yauhen is the Director of Demand Generation at PandaDoc. He’s been a marketer for 10+ years, and for the last five years, he’s been entirely focused on the electronic signature, proposal, and document management markets. Yauhen has experience speaking at niche conferences where he enjoys sharing his expertise with other curious marketers. And in his spare time, he is an avid fisherman and takes nearly 20 fishing trips every year.
Disclaimer: The author is completely responsible for the content of this article. The opinions expressed are their own and do not represent IEEE’s position nor that of the Computer Society nor its Leadership.