Skip to content

When presenting, don’t forget to…wait for it…pause

Dear Reader,

In the TV show “How I Met Your Mother” one of Barney Stinson’s catch phrases was “…wait for it…”.  He had many uses for it, the most common of course being “Legen..WAIT FOR IT…dary”, but he used it in all sorts of situations where a dramatic pause was called for…at least in his mind. By the end of the show’s run, most viewers were kind of sick of it because he so overused it that it lost all effect. Barney did not master the use of the dramatic pause.

As a speaker, you should master the dramatic pause. Dramatic pauses are a very effective tool for speakers. Regardless whether you are giving a technical presentation, a marketing pitch, or motivational talk, the dramatic pause is your friend.

When to pause

When to use the dramatic pause is as important as how you do it. A great place to pause is right after you have introduced a new idea or concept. Take a pause, let your audience have time to consider what you just said before you launch into to an explanation. Give them time to agree with you, disagree with you, or just let the thought sink in.

How to pause

How you execute a dramatic pause is of course dictated by your personal style. Some simply pause. If like me, you are a wanderer, I use a pause to wander back to the podium, others will take a sip of water. Anything that is not distracting to your audience is fine.

One note, don’t pause too long. It’s fine to pause to let a thought sink in. Don’t pause do long that the thought slips away. Practice will show you how long is long enough.


Dramatic pauses sprinkled throughout your talk will help your audience digest what you are saying. It will give your talk pacing. Mastering the dramatic pause will help you spin…WAIT FOR IT…a good yarn. :)

Until next time
I <3 |<

Learn how to Spin a Good Yarn

If you enjoyed this post, join the “Spin a Good Yarn” mailing list. We’ve got a lot of great posts there to help you beomce a better public speaker.

* indicates required


When it comes to submitting talks, how many is too many?

Dear Reader,

CFP season is once again upon us. Sunshine PHP’s CFP is open and I expect all the early conference for next year to open soon. PHP developers, regular speakers, and potential speakers all around the world are opening up documents and thinking through which talks they should submit and which they should retire. Every speaker who gets accepted has a list of potential talks they can present and I guarantee that as you read this, someone has that list open and is culling through it.

  • This one didn’t get accepted last year. Is it bad or should  I resubmit?
  • I know I gave this one last year but at which conference?
  • This one is outdated. Should I refresh it, give it a new title and start submitting it again, or should I retire it and write a new one?

During my heyday of speaking – meaning I got accepted to about 10% of the conference I submitted to – I had a Google Doc with about 10 talk ideas that I had either written or could write. When a CFP opened, I would open that document and “shotgun” the talks into the CFP system. 15 minutes of copy ‘n paste and I was done. I mean it’s a numbers game, right? The more I submit, the better chance I have of being accepted? Right? Well….no.

After a while, it dawned on me that shotgunning every conference with all my talk ideas was actually hurting me. After I had run a few CFPs, I understood why.

Most conference organizers want one good talk from you

Here that, one. One good talk is all you need to get accepted. Right, so which one of those 10 is going to get you accepted? That’s the million-dollar question, isn’t it. Thankfully, conference organizers give us clues before we even submit. Most conferences will give you a list of topics that they are interested in. Here’s a sneaky little tip. Unless they have taken the time to randomize the topics, the one at the top is the one they are most interested in. It was top-of-mind when they wrote up the list.

Tip #1

Filter your list to only include talks that match the list they gave. If it’s not on their list, don’t submit it.

Many conference organizers have to sort through 500+ talks to make the selection

Ok, you read their list and you have several talks that match the list. Which ones should you submit? Shouldn’t you submit all of them just in case one not on the list catches their eye? No, you shouldn’t. If you shotgun 10 talks and the conference organizer doesn’t like your first two to three talks, there is a chance that they will simply skip the rest of your talks. 500 talks is a lot of talks to sort through. Every conference organizer I know has taken shortcuts in the process. Don’t be a victim of shortcut.

If, after filtering the list based on the suggested topics, you still have five or more talks, keep filtering. Pick the four talks that you are really most passionate about. If you only have 2 talks you are really REALLY passionate about, pick the one additional talk that you think would be fun to give.

Tip #2

Filter your list down to a maximum of four talks.

Make your first idea you best

Almost all CFPs I have been a part of order talks by order of submission by default. So submit your best talk first. If this is the first time the organizer sees your name, make sure it is beside your best idea. Once you’ve submitted your best idea, flesh out your options. Submit your second best idea, then your third, and if you have it a fourth.

Tip #3

Submit your best idea first.

Many conferences are on a budget and need two talks from each speaker

After I have this conversation with people, many ask, well shouldn’t I just submit my best idea and be done with it? No, here’s why. Because of budget constraints, many conferences need each speaker to give two talks. Sunshine PHP is the conspicuous exception to this rule. Adam limits almost all speakers to a single session. So, to get selected, you have to have at least two talks that the organizer thinks will fit in the schedule. Conference organizer will sometimes pick a mediocre talk from a speaker that they have previously selected a “knock it out of the park” talk. We talked about having too many before though so don’t go back to submitting everything. Remember the rule of 4.

 Tip #4

Always give the organizer a second option, even if it’s not your strongest idea; a third option is even better.


Yes, submitting talks is a numbers game. Make sure you have the right number. Follow these four tips when selecting the talks to submit to each conference.

Until next time,
I <3 |<

Learn how to Spin a Good Yarn

If you enjoyed this post, join the “Spin a Good Yarn” mailing list. We’ve got a lot of great posts there to help you beomce a better public speaker.

* indicates required


Regarding Vanity Slides

Dear Reader,mic

Crafting Vanity Slides

You’ve given an outstanding presentation. You’ve educated your audience. You’ve led them down the path of enlightenment. Now, before you finish, let them know how to get in touch with you.

Vanity slides are important because they are the one slide in your deck on which you can put anything you want. If you want a picture of your dog, it’s perfectly ok to put it on your vanity slide. Wife, husband, baby,  favorite TV personality, who cares? This is the one slide you can do with as you please with impunity.

So if you can do whatever you want with your Vanity Slide, what makes a good vanity slide? You need three simple things to make it work for you.

  • A Picture
  • Contact Info
  • Something Personal

A Picture

Usually, this is your picture, however, it doesn’t have to be. Seriously, use a picture of whatever you want.  You, your pet, your hobby, your significant other, it’s your slide. It is best though that the picture have some relation to you. Putting up the clown from Stephen King’s “IT” is probably not the best idea…unless you are Stephen King.

The best pictures are of you. They don’t have to be professional head shots though. Action shots of you doing something are great. I’ve seen pictures of people climbing a mountain, people hiking, and then yes, sometimes, just people smiling at the camera.

If you have a presence on social media, try and use the same picture you use in your profile. This will help build what marketers call “Brand Awareness”. If you don’t have a social media presence, or if you don’t use your picture on your social media accounts, you are missing an opportunity.

Contact Info

People may want to reach out to you. Yes, some of them are going to want to pick apart points in your talk. Other people may want clarification on something that they didn’t understand. Sometimes, someone just wants to contact you to say thank you. Whatever their reason, don’t leave them hanging, give them your prefer methods of contact.

Be careful what information you put in this section. If you don’t field emails about your talks, don’t put an email address here. If you don’t want calls from Brazil in the middle of the night, don’t put a phone number here. Put only those methods of contact that you actually want people to use to contact you. For me, that is:

  • Email address
  • Twitter
  • Blog URL

That’s it. Those are the only ways I want people contacting me, so they are the only ways I publish.

Something Personal

Finally, give them something personal to remember you by. This may be a tidbit like your favorite hobbies, it may be the logo or URL of your current pet project. Whatever it is, make sure that you give them something personal. For me, it’s usually the Nomad PHP logo as that is my pet project. Again, this would be a good place for a picture of your actual pet.  Whatever you want, leave them knowing a little something about you.


A final word on your vanity slide

I’ve said this for years but it bears repeating. There are two kinds of people sitting in your talk.

  1. People who are interested in your subject
  2. People who know you

Notice I didn’t list “People who want to know why you are an expert on this topic”. The first group doesn’t know you but something has already convinced them to come listen to you. There is no need to lay out your case for being an expert.

The second group already knows you and either is excited about hearing you talk, or are there anyhow.

Put your vanity slide at the end. Don’t tease your audience by saying “Here’s what I am going to talk about…but first, a little about ME!”

Put your vanity slide up as you finish, or as you start to answer questions. Leave it up until you are done and start tearing down. This gives people plenty of time to copy down your information. You also get an added bonus if you are speaking at a user group as your vanity slide will usually stay up during the organizer’s closing comments.

Vanity slides are important, both in what they contain and where they appear. Getting yours right is just one more step in spinning a good yarn.

Until next time!
I <3 |< =C=

Learn how to Spin a Good Yarn

If you enjoyed this post, join the “Spin a Good Yarn” mailing list. We’ve got a lot of great posts there to help you beomce a better public speaker.

* indicates required


Q&A on Public Speaking with Jessica Rose

Dear Reader,

This week my guest is Jessica Rose. Jessica speaks at developers events all over Europe and the US.

She took time out from her busy schedule to join me to answer questions on public speaking. We talk abut her first talk, preparing for talks, speaking to audiences whose first language is not English, and so much more.

Show Notes


Learn how to give great presentations. Learn what it takes to help others understand what you know.

Learn how to Spin a Good Yarn.


Public Speaking and WordCamps

Dear Reader,

Recently I had the privilege of sitting down with a friend of mine, David Bisset, and talking to him about public speaking, running an event, and mostly about WordCamps. David has been an organizer of WordCamp Miami in the past, probably my favorite of all the WordCamps I’ve been to.

Show Notes:


Until next time,
I <3 |<