Recently, I was asked to be the Program Chair for the Leadership Summit. This is a one day event focused on building leadership mastery that follows several 4-5 days of tutorials and sessions at the SQE Better Software/Agile Development/DevOps conference. To say people are wiped out by the time Friday rolls around, is simply a big understatement. So I brainstormed with the speakers: Doc List, Jake Calabrese, Mike Longin, Prateek Singh and Noopur Davis. What could we do that would be valuable to leaders and increase energy in the room?

Luckily, a number of these wonderful people had been exposed to Presentation Karaoke! This is Arlo Belshee’s genius creation. He had the idea a couple of years ago and immediately worked to make it a reality. Essentially, you pick a random topic from a fishbowl (maybe TDD, Mindset, etc) and then you present against a huge deck of slides that automatically advance. You have NO IDEA what is going to show up on that screen – but you have to keep talking about your selected topic.

In order to increase the safety of getting as many volunteers as possible in 30 minutes, I make a couple of tweaks. First, I lowered the time before slide advancement to 20 seconds. Second, I lowered how long you were up there to about 2 minutes.  Third, you could have the crowd give you three topics to choose from or choose your own topic.  The core remained the same…no idea what was going to be shown next.

So many awesome things to highlight:

  • Volunteers: Yes, all the speakers were prepared to play but we had tons of attendees eager to give it a shot. Most even had the audience give them three topic options to choose from.
  • Energy: Laughter is plentiful. Sometimes because the slides seem almost too perfect for the topic, sometimes because there just is no way to connect a random cat photo to BDD, and sometimes because the speaker thinks of something so clever that you just laugh from delight.
  • Comfort Zone Challenge: This was new for most people in the room and they were willing to try in front of others. What a great example a leader can set for his/her teams that failing is learning and trying is important!
  • Knowledge: Some remarked that they were surprised by how much knowledge that had to be able to make random connections.
  • Confidence: For many people, public speaking is not high on the list of favorite things to do. People get nervous about making a mistake, not having all the answers, not being polished, etc. In this format, the pressure for perfection is off.
  • Stress Check: The stress of “can I do this” is there but two minutes with slides going every 20 seconds, means that this is over very quickly. There is a low bar for being able to overcome the stress that might prevent you from trying.
  • Improv: Let’s face it, leaders never know what is coming next. Working the muscle of adapting quickly and calmly is extremely beneficial. This is simply an amazing tool to practice growing that muscle.

What might you leverage the value of this tool?

Tricia Broderick

Tricia Broderick

Tricia Broderick is a leadership and organizational advisor. Her transformational leadership at all levels of an organization, ignites growth of leaders and high performing teams to deliver quality outcomes. Tricia has more than twenty years of experience in the software development industry. She is a highly-rated trainer, coach, facilitator and motivational keynote speaker. Beyond her extensive knowledge and skills, her biggest offering is inspiring people to believe anything is possible.


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