A Mad Libs approach to bios, presentation summaries, and elevator pitches.

Good writers borrow, great writers fill in the blank. —

As a developer, it’s likely that at some point in your career you’ll have to give a talk, pitch an idea, or present your work to unknown people. To prevent the existential dread that comes from staring into the void of an empty text area labeled “Bio:”, I have a set of templates I use when preparing pitches, summaries, and bios. They should serve as a good starting point for you too – regardless of your discipline.


Pitches should be a concise way to get across your product. They’re useful on websites, elevators, and conference booths. You should have a few pitches based on the audience, the template here can be mixed and matched.

For [audience] who [need] our [product] is a [class] unlike [competition] [further differentiation].

I like this template because it does a good job at working with psychological schemas. By anchoring to an existing thing, then showing differentiation your audience is less likely to come away feeling like you spouted corpspeak at them and they should be able to intuit the benefits themselves.

Here’s an example of how I might have pitched Kf to an enterprise already using CF and testing the waters of Kubernetes:

Kf is a CF inspired PaaS for enterprises who want to move from Cloud Foundry to Kubernetes. Unlike Eirini, the API is Kubernetes CRDs so legacy apps can be brought along too.

And here’s the same format switched perspective to a Kubernetes native shop:

Kf is a PaaS for Kubernetes shops who want a CF like end-to-end workflow on Kubernetes. Unlike CF, the API is Kubernetes CRDs so developers get the PaaS velocity without losing insight.

Presentation summaries

A good presentation summary gets people to come to your talk. You don’t want your audience to be disappointed by the content of your talk, so make sure the language is honest and tailored to your audience.

At minimum, the summary should do the following:

  • Grab the audience’s attention.
  • Identify the need/purpose.
  • Sketch the solution/contents.

I summarized my CF NA 2019 lightning talk “You got Terraform in my Service Broker” like this:

Joseph will introduce Brokerpaks, a way for developers and operators to collaborate in designing their own services with Terraform that they can inject into the Cloud Foundry service catalog. Brokerpaks allow multi-cloud integration, faster turnaround, longer support, and a custom experience you can match to your organization’s structure.

Probably a 6 out of 10 for execution, but it did get the right audience because I came away with business cards of folks interested in collaboration which eventually led to the creation of a new CF project based on the idea. Does that mean I can call myself a “thought leader” on LinkedIn now?


I always dreaded writing bios – it’s hard to figure out what’s relevant and can feel boastful. Luckily, I had access to some folks whose whole jobs were to give talks at conferences and they suggested the following format:

  • Current role.
  • Relevant work experience.
  • Major groups you belong to.
  • Education.

These are all about building a rapport with the audience and giving context on your background. You might find people show up just to understand what your thoughts are on a topic even if they know the content well.

Here’s my bio for that same Cloud Foundry conference:

Joseph is a software engineer on Google’s Cloud Graphite team. In this role, he focuses on building integrations between the Cloud Foundry ecosystem and GCP. Previously, he was a senior developer at Liberty Mutual where he developed apps on Cloud Foundry. Joseph earned a MS in computer science from Purdue, and a BS from the University of Denver.


And that’s it! Hopefully, you can take these and use them to form the basis of your next pitch/bio/summary so you can get it over with and go back to what you love faster.