Tuesday, May 7, 2013

How to Get Free Speaker Training with Kathy Sierra

This post was written by Sarah Milstein, co-host of The Lean Startup Conference.

We are downright thrilled to announce that Kathy Sierra, one of our all-time favorite speakers and teachers, has offered to provide free training for Lean Startup Conference speakers. If you've never spoken at a conference before, or it you've done it and found you weren't quite the MLK you had imagined, this is a terrific opportunity to build your skills. Company leaders: if you have no budget for speaker training, but you've got employees with amazing expertise and limited presentation chops, please encourage them to apply.

As more companies in more sectors use Lean Startup techniques around the world, there are a burgeoning number of useful lessons out there--but fewer chances we'll know about them. So we're actively seeking stories we don't know to share with our community, and we're interested in people who are not already on the speaking circuit. (In this post, we do a deep dive on our audience, the kinds of talks they find useful, and past talks that people loved. Hint: our best talks give advice; if you have some, consider applying.)

Because we're looking for fresh speakers, and because we want to make sure all of our speakers are great communicators, we know we'll have to provide some speaker training. I've taught classes on speaking, and I had been planning to do it. But when Kathy saw that we were offering training, she volunteered enthusiastically, sending an outline for how she'd teach a distributed group, covering both stage fright and presentation skills. Why have the local tennis pro do the coaching when Serena Williams wants to jump in? 

If you're not familiar with Kathy's talks, take a look. You may also know of her through the Head First book series, which has a winning pedagogical approach based on brain science that Kathy and her partner Bert Bates researched extensively. In other words, Kathy's got game as a speaker and as a teacher, and her methods are rooted in a deep understanding of how people work. Of note: Kathy wants to do this training on a volunteer basis, because it will be rewarding for her--which tells you something about the kind of teacher she is.

In order to give more people a chance to apply as speakers, we've extended the deadline by a week. It was originally this Thurs, May 9. It is now Thurs, May 16. If you're thinking of applying, do take the time to read our post about what we look for in talks, and do follow all of the instructions on our very short application form. And again, if you work with somebody who has useful advice to share and might do it eloquently with a little support, please pass along this post.

Finally, note that we aim to run a merit-based speaker-selection process. In our experience, that means we wind up with a higher percentage of speakers who are women and people of color than your average entrepreneurship conference. So if you're in a group that's typically under-represented on stage, do know that we've had success in the past bringing in a range of great speakers--and we intend to build on what's worked.