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Greetings my fellow cubicle dwellers.

I've found my role gradually change from "feature-maintainer" to "feature-developer". While much of the former would consist of fixing and/or updating an existing feature (and quietly grumbling about it's implementation with complete naiveté), in this new role I find:

  • Have to communicate with immediate management to define the development requirements to turnaround the new feature
  • Have to communicate with design to determine the user requirements of the new feature
  • Have to communicate with QA to determine test sets for the new feature, as well as it's current state during development.
  • Have to communicate with producers/project-managers to define remaining turnaround time as well as updates in development requirements.
  • and finally, have to occasionally communicate with upper-management to defend the new feature and demonstrate it's minimized risk to the upcoming release.

The last item is key here, and this took me a couple occasions to completely realize. In all, though, it becomes very apparent that communication skills ARE important, even or especially as such for developers who feel they 'own' the feature they're working on.

All of this said, I recognize it's importance and would like to improve my skills in this area further. I enjoy one-on-one communication but find I tend to stutter a bit when speaking to any group larger than a few people I know well.

Where can I find good resources to improve my own communication skills?

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Thank you all for the great answers! – mummey Dec 30 '10 at 1:34
up vote 10 down vote accepted

Someone once said that more people fear public speaking than they do death. In my experience the only real way to get over it is to get used to it; practice, speak to a lot of people all the time, etc.

For us in software development though the way I found it easiest to hone public speaking skills is to join a local User Group and start speaking there.

Volunteer for presentations -- it can be anything about software development as basic as a 101 on a certain programming language to as complex as agile management -- whatever fits the bill. Try to do this as often as possible, and even if you're just with friends always imagine that there is a much bigger audience listening to you behind them.

I personally found that through this practice I became better at expressing my ideas to my bosses and to larger groups of people.

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+1 Practice makes perfect; nothing substitutes! – Andrew Barber Dec 29 '10 at 4:09
the phrasing I like is "at a funeral, most people would prefer to be in the coffin, rather than giving the eulogy"! :-) – Carson63000 Dec 29 '10 at 4:38
@Carson63000 LOL that's an awesome way to put it :) – Jon Limjap Dec 29 '10 at 9:00

Join to Toastmasters International (TI) in your University or College. Here is their official site, and search here a nearby club in your area, and join.

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Confessions of a Public Speaker is very good.

The main thing is practice. Someone gave me some good advice once, People listening to a speech don't want the speaker to fail, they don't want to sit there in embarrassed silence. They want you to succeed!

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I would say find a local community college or adult learning center that offers a public speaking course.

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As mentioned by others, if you can present on a couple of topics at user group meetings or code camps, it will definitely help you improve your communication skills. I found that starting out at a local user group you frequent is a great place to start. The environment is less threatening, because people will already know you, and you've built a level of comfort with them.

I started out by presenting on a couple of topics at work for my co-workers, where I felt most comfortable. Then I took it to the next level and presented a couple of times at my user group. I plan on taking the next step soon, and present at another user group (not my own).

Also, as mentioned, a local Toastmasters group would be invaluable. I have not tried this myself yet, but I've heard great things about it.

Good luck. You definitely seem to get how important communication skills are to advance in this field.

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