My current workplace holds fortnightly lunchtime discussion sessions on topics of software development. At these sessions, a speaker will talk about a particular software development topic in front of up to 100 people, ranging from project managers and business analysts, to designers and developers. These sessions are a great way to facilitate learning across the organisation. Anyone who has something valuable to say can volunteer hold one of these sessions. However, the prospect can be a little daunting for those who have some great ideas, but are not accustomed to speaking in front of such a large group.
I recently read an excellent book called Practices of an Agile Developer, which mentions spreading knowledge in a team using “brown-bag sessions”. Each week, a member of the team leads a lunchtime (hence the “brown-bag”) discussion on a topic that’s of interest to the team. Not only is this a great way to spread knowledge in the team, but it also allows individuals to gain confidence at speaking in front of others. It is much less daunting than speaking in front of a large audience of strangers, as these people are peers, who can give feedback and reciprocate discussion. Once you gain confidence at speaking, you can look at holding a talk at a local user group, or give a presentation in front of a larger audience.
Public speaking is something that most people have to do at some stage in their life. For developers it can mean giving a presentation, leading a technical discussion, or simply having the guts to ask a question at a conference. Starting out with small discussions in front of a small group of peers would be a great way to practice your articulation and gain confidence at public speaking.