I’ve got a gig at OSCON 2008 doing a mini-keynote, fifteen minutes entitled Language Inflection Point. This was in my mind when I stumbled across Marca’s Public speaking versus blogging. I think he’s really wrong.

His proposition is that you speak at conferences to get written about by journalists, who will mangle your message, so he’s decided to give up on public speaking. Here’s why that’s wrong:

  1. The purpose of giving a speech at a conference is to provide value to the conference audience; you know, the people who paid money to be in the rooom.

  2. For at least some of us, public speaking is a blast: a monster adrenaline high, and no matter how many times you rehearse, you always think of something new to say once you start talking.

  3. When you give a speech, unless you’re really lame you’ve just had half a conversation with everyone in the room; quite a few of them will want to have the other half, so you get to hear enlightening stories from strangers. And if it’s an UnConference or a small crowd, you can have a whole conversation.

  4. If you agree to speak at a conference that means you’re gonna go to the conference, and there are very few conferences where you’re not going to have a chance to learn something valuable.

  5. If people like what I say, they might start reading the blog.


Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: Ben Hutchings (May 16 2008, at 04:49)

If you're lucky, someone will make a good recording of your talk too, so people who hear about it later can still get your original message.


From: Thierry Coopman (May 16 2008, at 05:22)

I remember a speech you gave at XTech, the closing speech. I loved it, would like a transcript.

It's really adding value to the conference.


From: Eric Meyer (May 16 2008, at 05:32)

I suspect what he wrote is largely correct for the kinds of conferences at which he gets asked to speak, and the kinds of talks he's asked to give. For people more like you or me, it's an entirely different dynamic.

To wit: you're right that he's overlooking the conversation aspect, but from his post it sounds like he's a lot more interested in Pronouncing than conversing.


From: John Cowan (May 16 2008, at 06:30)

It's not so much wrong as a different purpose. Marca's purpose is "I want to get a message out into the market," and he asserts that blogging is superior to speaking for that purpose. Your purposes are more complicated.


From: Dave Walker (May 16 2008, at 07:12)

I agree, on all of the points you make.

There's also the fringe benefits - if you present at conferences regularly enough, you rarely (if ever) need to buy nice pens, laser pointers, laptop bags or T-shirts :-).


From: len (May 16 2008, at 07:27)

MARCA's history of getting it wrong is stellar. Remember when XML was Microsoft FUD and proprietary: The Paris Massacree?

I think it good to be a Z-lister.

Public speaking takes a lot of practice to do well as you well know. Blogging is a very different medium. These do not compete. They reinforce each other. At least if one blogs enough, one arrives with a nice collection of one-liners ready to heat.

But I still hate to fly.


From: Sarah O'Keefe (May 16 2008, at 07:44)

For most of us, public speaking doesn't result in major press coverage. I think that's where the disconnect between the two perspectives is coming from.


From: Simon Phipps (May 16 2008, at 15:11)

I have taken to writing the blog posting before I speak so the journalists can use that as the source rather than risk being found "misquoting" the talk itself. I'm then free to be entertaining as I speak, which is what the audience wants.


From: Tim Lesher (May 16 2008, at 15:13)

Not quite. His proposition is much narrower than the proposition with which you're disagreeing.

He says that, given the goal of getting a message out into the broader market, the two conduits of "public speaking | journalist | press | market" and "giving interview | journalist | press | market" are each less effective than blogging.

It's too much of a leap to generalize his comment as "blogging is better than speaking at a conference". Otherwise, you could also parse it was "sitting around in your underwear is better than giving an interview to a reporter."


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