Who inspires you in the Technology arena?


Written by: Oscar Santolalla

Last year I became particularly interested in public speaking, and as many of you, I work in the technology sector; so I started paying attention to who speaks well, who is inspiring, and who can explain complex things in easy and enjoyable words. I tried to find some article or “top ten” in Google, and I only found lists of keynote speakers, unknown guys that can come to a big IT company’s headquarters and supposedly motivate all the employees gathered during a special event. I was not looking for this, however. I wanted to know about the real experts in technology and business, those whose innovation spirit, experience and expertise, drive the industry and have the power to change our world and way of thinking and teach us in what direction the wind of change blows.
I then decided to write a list myself. What do the people on my list have in common? The unequivocal answer is Experience. All these personages have been around for many years. Surely the list covers only those who speak in English, and whose focus is mostly Information Technology and Clean Tech. My selection also emphasizes speakers who have been active and relevant in the past two years.
This Top 8 list is shown in alphabetical order.

1. Jeff Bezos (Amazon)

(Jeff Bezos delivers graduation speech at Princeton University)

Amazon’s CEO is a very mature speaker, unarguably one of the best on this list. His drive made Amazon.com the most prominent survivor of the 90s’ dot coms. The company has evolved, continuously transformed its business model and reached a privileged position today. Even in the hardest and most uncertain times, Bezos has managed to convince investors on how his ideas would become successful products and services. If you see him speaking, you will clearly understand why.  As a public speaker, Jeff has a special power and expressiveness that is rare to find and hard to ignore.

Strengths: Great body language and effective vocal variety while speaking.

2. Steve Blank (Independent author)

(Days of Future Past)

Do you think you know Silicon Valley’s history? No matter what you answered, you should hear it from Steve Blank’s mouth. His long experience as a technology entrepreneur makes him the best in the topic. Now retired, Blank is a very inspiring author and keynote speaker. When you listen to him, you can hear the voice of an extraordinary educator. And indeed he also spends his time teaching in Stanford and Berkeley, where students can learn his “scientific method” on how to manage a startup.

Strengths: Elegant, educational style of speaking. Use of stories.

3. Jack Dorsey (Square, Twitter)

(The Power of Curiosity and Inspiration)

Few tech entrepreneurs can count on their records having created two awesome and revolutionary products in few years. Jack is one of them. Now he is CEO of Square and executive chairman of Twitter. Not a small thing. In spite of his youth, his presentations and public appearances show both maturity and high confidence that inspire people. I find particularly remarkable his use of stories to present technical ideas and to show how they have a meaning for the society. Dorsey will have a lot to show us in the future.

Strengths: Use of stories. High confidence.

4. Bill Gross (Idealab)

(Learning From Failure. 20 Years of Entrepreneurial Lessons in 20 Minutes)

Idealab‘s CEO has been both an entrepreneur and inventor since he was in high school.  He is the only one of this list who is more focused on clean tech than on IT. Bill always explains to us with endless enthusiasm his proposals on how to face today’s energy challenges. His fluency is extraordinary; few people can impeccably speak technically complex topics at that pace. Good humor is another salient ingredient of any Gross’ speeches.

Strengths: Great sense of humor. Capacity of explaining hard concepts in an enjoyable way.

5. Mikko Hyppönen (F-Secure)

(Fighting viruses, defending the net)

Have you thought that a presentation about information security has to be boring? If you said yes it is because you have never seen and listened to Mikko Hyppönen, Chief Research Officer at F-Secure. He is a real showman who is up to date in all the aspects of this branch of technology. His always creative presentations combine well-designed slides with impressive demos, and make you realize how important security is in today’s life.

Strengths: Excellent use of visualizations in slides. Easiness of saying complex concepts in a clear way.

6. Steve Jobs (Apple)

(Launch of MacBook Air)

He is not with us anymore, but the former Apple’s CEO has been probably the most admired person of the most recent years. In every new product’s keynote presentation, he showed us not only a product but a dream. Do you remember when he unveiled MacBook Air from a manila envelope? Steve Jobs was a showman at the stage: minimalistic, calm, but extremely powerful. I particularly liked his inspirational campaigns such as his “Think different” series of videos, which made him a naturally inspiring person.

Strengths: Minimalistic slides. Spectacular style of showing new products. Inspirational way of speaking.

7. Guy Kawasaki (Garage Technology Ventures)

(The Art of Enchantment)

He started a technology career as Macintosh Chief Evangelist in the early 80s. Nowadays he leads Garage Technology Ventures, and he is also author of great books such as “The art of the start” and “Enchantment”. The latter is an excellent guide of how to convince people of your ideas by saying the right words and by shipping great products. When you see him before an audience you clearly realize how mature speaker he is, and how his humor makes any of his appearances enjoyable.

Strengths: Great sense of humor. Maturity in public speaking.

8. Mark Templeton (Citrix)

(XenClient announcements during Synergy 2011 keynote)

Citrix Systems is nowadays a company leader in virtualization and cloud computing, but not long ago it struggled to survive. One of the biggest orchestrators of this transformation has been Templeton’s leadership and vision. He is an example of how a mid-level manager can become a CEO thanks to his excellence in communication. His use of body language is also a characteristic hard to ignore from him. Mark is mentioned as a Case Study in the famous book “Slideology“, by Nancy Duarte. In any of his presentations, we can see his innate gift to think visually.

Strengths: Powerful body language. Use of minimalistic slides and other visual aids.

These speakers are fantastic paradigms for any technical pitch. I am positive that, regardless of your taste, you will find excellent models to follow on this Top 8 list. Observe every guy’s best skills, and learn from the Masters!