Thursday, April 4, 2019

In preparation for the upcoming Create tour for startups, I’ve been challenging our speakers to do something a bit unusual for most of them: Draft their talks out longhand.

Don’t get me wrong, we’ve got some great speakers who can show up to an event cold and improve a presentation better than most people can do a talk that’s been worked on for months. And, they speak so often, they all have several slide decks ready to go for their areas of expertise and can mix or match as needed. For this tour, however, we’re asking many of them to bring their knowledge about their topic area, focus it for the needs of early- to mid-phase startups, and to do it in a way that’s useful for our audience of startup developers and technical founders.

For example, Phoummala Schmitt is giving a talk about governance at our first two stops in New York and Toronto next week. This isn’t a typical topic for a startup conference. Having worked at startups who grow up and end up as (or part of) bigger companies, however, I’ve run into many topics around governance and compliance that not only did we not think about, we made decisions that were counter to being able to handle our requirements later on. So, we’re going to try to bring a bit of this kind of perspective back to startups.

No, we’re not going to tell you to do things the way Microsoft does it. That would be patently ridiculous. What Phoummala will do, however, is give the audience some tools and techniques that can help determine what the starting guardrails for a startup should be. Ones that can develop over time as needed.

Tricky, right? It’d be straightforward for us to come in talking about ISO-standard this and compliance that and totally lose the audience in less than two minutes flat.

That’s where drafting the talk out longhand comes in. As we’ve worked the last few weeks together over Phoummala’s words, we’ve talked about examples we can use, what concepts feel right for the audience we expect, and what we should cut because it would distract from the core takeaways we want to leave with our audience.

It’s not an easy thing to do, especially when a speaker is used to throwing some slides together, showing up, and pushing play on themselves. But the effort is worth it. In this case, I think we’ve now got a talk that will be useful to developers at a startup. One that will leave them with some of the things I wish I’d known a while ago.

If you want to see how it turned out, along with the rest of the presentations we’ve been working on, please join us in New York or Toronto next week.