Things not to say when speaking at Microsoft

by Scott | 4/11/2009

I was invited to speak at Microsoft’s Asian Pacific Leadership conference last week, an internal employee only event, and spoke in the McKinley room to a swell crowd of about 300 people. It was a nice event – kudos to all the organizers.

At the end of the talk, late in Q&A, someone asked about schedule estimation. You know, tricks for how to better predict how long things take.

After hemming and hawing, I mentioned wideband delphi, a good technique for teams.

The gentleman asking the question looked confused. I asked the audience. No one had heard of it either.

So I then say the last thing you should say:

“Oh. Just Google it.”

The entire crowd gave me a good spirited “booooo”.   Had there been a list of 5 things not to say, other than to ask about Vista PR or Zune marketshare,  this would have been top of the list.

Which I thought was embarrassing, but funny. I find it funny when I do really innocent, but stupid things.  I apologized, and felt bad, but it is in it’s way, comedy. A few people yelled out “Live Search!” to try and help me out. But I’d already blown it.

Hey, this stuff happens, especially during the spontiniety of Q&A.


8 Responses to “Things not to say when speaking at Microsoft”

  1. Fitz Says:


  2. Scott Says:

    Tragedy is comedy – I know all too well.

    The whole story makes me think of how market leader names often take over categories of products. People say kleenex instead of tissue, band-aid for bandage, that sort of thing. It happens all the time, but for public speakers these cultural conventions are a kind of land mine.

    I mean, if I had said “Live search” every time I meant to say search during the talk, I’d seem phony for being so Microsoft specific and cramming their brand name in places no ordinary person would use it.

    Either way it’s a tricky thing. I’d never want to disrespect who was inviting me to speak, but at the same time I wouldn’t want to be phony or not myself as I doubt they want that either.

  3. Jane Payfer Says:

    Hey – game, set, match, it’s over.

    VHS beat Beta
    PCs beat Macs
    Blu-ray beat HD-DVD.
    Google beat LiveSearch

    Instead of being politically correct, You spoke truth. Don’t be embarrassed.

  4. George Says:

    Nice post, but you really need to look over what you write before you post:

    “Had their been a list of 5 things not to say” you mean “there.”

    “Hey, this stuff happens, especially during the spontiniety of Q&A.” Don’t you have spell checking software?

  5. Scott Says:

    George: Fixed now. Thx.

    Well, spell checking is one thing, but idiot checking is quite another.

  6. LinuxIsForServers Says:

    VHS beat Beta
    PCs beat Macs

    There is so much wrong with that statement. First of all, Macs *are* “PCs.” These days they are the same architecture. The OS is what’s mainly different. (A superior OS in my experiences, but we’ll leave that out of this…) Second, Apple hasn’t been “beat” by anyone. They’re still around, they’re still making computers, and they’re gaining marketshare. Betamax is dead. Big difference.

    Oh, and don’t forget “iPod beat Zune” and “iPhone OS beat Windows Mobile.” ;)

  7. The myth of the tough crowd? | Speaker Confessions Says:

    […] Every company or industry has words they hate or facts they don’t want to hear. For example, mentioning Google at Microsoft, or Microsoft at Google, is sure to provoke a response. Choose stories and examples […]

  8. herb Says:

    You’re fine. Ever see “Miracle on 34th St.”?

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