Why NextGen: Blaze Your Own Path

Written by Andreas, a Local Government Employee.

Five years ago, I was a young professional in a new local government job. I was going through a phase of discovery about my new career choice. I was mainly focused on projects surrounding 311 Call Center, performance management, and scorecard reporting, along with other special projects. In my research of other cities and projects I came across GovLoop’s first annual Next Generation of Government Summit. Having no travel budget approved; I took my own vacation time and stayed on a friends couch to attend this summit. I was excited about the opportunity to meet other fellow young professional government employees, gain encouragement and learn from their experiences. I had no idea what I was getting into.

As I arrived at the Westin in Arlington on that first day, I had no idea what to expect. It was exciting. There were high-energy conversations about transformational projects that were taking place around the country, and the best part was, everyone was engaging and easy to approach. Taking full advantage of this opportunity has shaped my career in so many ways that continue to show for themselves. Through the Next Generation of Government Summit I was introduced to thought leaders around the county – which led to my attending the Gov 2.0 conference later that fall – which introduced me to Code for America through a fellow – and later becoming a Next Generation of Government Summit board member. All of these occurred due to my taking the first step to attend the Next Generation of Government Summit.

My challenge for you is…what will your NextGen story be? Who you will you meet? How will the summit excite you to new levels in your job or career?

The path is up to you, I strongly encourage anyone and everyone to attend this Summit as it has transformative qualities that will impact your career.


Why NextGen: “Good Enough for Government Work”

Written by Rachel A., Federal Employee

There was a time in this country, when “good enough for Government work” was a compliment. If your supervisor told you that your job was “good enough for Government work” he was telling you that the job you were doing could pass the rigorous standards of the Federal Government. However, over time, “good enough for Government work” evolved from words of praise to words of mediocrity. Today, “good enough for Government work” alludes to the belief that the work tasked to Federal employees is done with little care or pride, and nothing could be farther from the truth.

“It’s kind of hard to do your job when nobody likes you for doing it.”

Last summer I attended the Next Generation of Government Training Summit (NextGen) with the goal to gain new insight on how to better navigate my career. It never occurred to me that what I needed most from the summit was to rediscover my passion for public service. Like the majority of Federal employees, I had become weary. Sequestration, pay freezes, hiring freezes, lack of promotion opportunities, and the disdain that some politicians and the American public have for the Federal workforce, had started to take toll on me, and I could see it was starting to affect my performance. I felt like my performance was starting to reflect the negativity that embodies “good enough for Government work”, but worse, I was starting to wonder why I was still a Federal Employee.

“Without action you aren’t going anywhere”

NextGen was more than just a training conference; NextGen is where I not only rediscovered my passion for public service, but also had that “Aha moment”. I realized that I also have a role to play in not only improving my Agency, but also improving the public’s perception of the Federal workforce. If we want to change the perception of Federal employees, “we must become evangelicals for public service” was by far one of the most important lessons I learned at NextGen.

I had spent years cataloging my feelings on countless Employee Viewpoint Surveys, and spent years being disappointed when the change I was hoping for didn’t materialize. For years I thought that someone smarter than me, more dedicated than me, more senior than me, would see the dysfunctions that I saw, and would fix them. It never occurred to me that I too had a responsibility to help make my Agency a better place. If my Agency’s scores are low in the Employee Viewpoint Survey, my immediate question is now: “What can I do?” not “What is Senior Management going to do?”

Going to NextGen gave me a fresh outlook on my career, and I learned a lot, and most importantly it gave me the tools I needed to help improve performance. I have never had a poor performance review, but for the last few years my performance reviews had been average, not stellar. My performance review last October was the best ones I had received in the last few years, and I know it is because of skills and knowledge I brought back from NextGen.

“Every post is honorable in which a man can serve his country.”

By and large, the Federal workforce is made up of incredibly talented people, who are extremely qualified, who chose a career in public service, because they believe in the notion that that public service is an honorable profession.

Federal employees are not perfect; we do make mistakes, and sometimes those mistakes end up on the front page of the Washington Post. However, for every politician who chooses to run their election campaign based on reinforcing negative government stereotypes, there are thousands of Federal employees that are dedicated to their Agency’s mission. Everyday Federal employees work to deliver essential social services, take care of our veterans, protect our food supply and environment, help small businesses, fight terrorism, carry out U.S. foreign policy, maintain our transportation systems, run our national parks, safeguard consumers, and find cures for diseases. Their intent is to do their jobs well; their purpose is to serve the American people, even when the American people don’t like us very much.

I am a Federal Employee, and I am taking back the meaning of “good enough for Government work”.


A ‘drug dealer’ in a federal prison. Breaking the ‘other’ glass ceiling. How to stay sane while leaning in. Why biz school + government is the next big thing.

These are just a few of the finalists we’re now featuring in this year’s Next Generation of Government Training Summit Lightning Talk Speaker Contest. The goal of these lightning talks? They’re going to motivate, inspire and educate their peers in government — all in just five minutes. Over 150 people submitted their talk ideas to us — and we’ve since narrowed it down to 15 amazing entries.

Now? We need you to help us decide. (And it’s gonna be a tough job.)

Head to this NextGen page to read more about these 15 inspiring talks. Then, pick your favorite five (if you can!). Cast your vote at the bottom. And do it by April 18th, when the contest ends. Make sure to spread the word, and follow @NextGenGov on Twitter, and tweet your votes.

Then what? Well, if you haven’t already, sign up to attend NextGen. (We’ve got a few tips here.) Then you’ll get to see these lightning talks in action. We promise — it’s going to be worth it.


By: Mike Stevens, Federal Government Employee & President, YGL Los Angeles

Success2011 was my first NextGen. I had just started a leadership program with the Federal Executive Board (FEB) and volunteered for a project that would help start a Young Government Leaders (YGL) chapter in Los Angeles. For three years prior, I was a happy and content Federal servant, but then I was introduced to YGL, GovLoop, and a NextGen state of mind.

For three days I stared at the White House outside of my hotel window. On my way to the NextGen summit each morning, I walked past national monuments and government buildings with architecture and history that screamed importance. I discovered where I fit in, right next to 600+ like-minded Generation X and Y government employees with a common goal to make government better. The sessions and speakers were educational and inspiring, the atmosphere infectious and transforming. I returned to work and busted out of my cubicle – on a mission to improve my office, my agency and to organize Federal servants in Los Angeles to do the same. Today, YGL Los Angeles has almost 500 members.

2012 was my second NextGen. The YGL Los Angeles chapter hosted a breakout session, Maximizing Your Early Years: From NextGen to SES. One of the biggest breakout sessions, it was packed! It felt good to give back to the NextGen community that filled my government passion bucket a year earlier. I also met another speaker during a networking event at NextGen that year. He was a senior leader at his agency in DC, and he asked me to attend his breakout session to provide him feedback after. We have kept in touch and he somewhat became a mentor, opening doors that helped me transition to a challenging and promising career with another agency in Los Angeles. Unexpected at the time, but very much needed. That is NextGen.

2013 was NextGen+ Los Angeles. With awesome support from GovLoop and our local FEB, YGL Los Angeles hosted the first ever NextGen event outside of Washington, DC. An extension of the bigger summit, we recruited Los Angeles public service leaders to educate and inspire YGL members on the west coast. One of our speakers was Mark Pine, a former Deputy Director at NASA and current Deputy Director at the Griffith Observatory for the City of Los Angeles. Mark really embraced the NextGen vibe we threw at him and talked about a “NextGen career” and what success really looks like. He provided the Demetri Martin squiggly line success graph above. You can plan a career path all you want, but you never know what is right around the corner as long as you are ready and willing. That basically sums up my NextGen experience over the years and why I keep coming back.

NextGen has not only enhanced my career, it has changed my personal mission as a public servant. Make it a stop on your career path and see where it takes you…


Your Top Public Speaking Questions — Answered

Originally posted on by Adrian Pavia

This is the third installment in a three-part series covering GovLoop’s virtual training event on effective public speaking. The first installment collected the top tricks for improving your public speaking, while the second installment provided lessons for repurposing your emotions to help deliver a stronger speech.

Public speaking can often seem like a solitary occupation. You usually find yourself alone, standing in front of a group of peers or strangers, trying to convince them of the importance of your material.


Fortunately, you aren’t alone – at least when it comes to preparing for your speech. On Tuesday March 11th, GovLoop hosted a virtual training session on how to become an effective public speaker. The event ended with a lively question and answer session, addressing many of the audience’s urgent questions. You can view the archived version of the webinar here.

For now, we’ve compiled a recap of a few of the most common questions from the audience. Webinar panelists included Steve Ressler, Founder and President of GovLoop, and Michael Lawyer, Special Assistant to the Human Capital Officer, Department of Housing and Urban Development. 

Q: How do you keep energized when you are trying to talk slowly?

“That’s a tricky one,” Ressler conceded. In his presentation, Ressler emphasized the need to keep the audience energized by keeping one’s energy level up, but also reminded viewers that slowing down and pausing is key to delivering a more compelling speech. Ressler advised finding a rhythm that is natural.

“I start with being energetic and then start speaking slowly. That’s how my brain works,” Ressler said. But for some people, the opposite may be the best way to go. The important thing is to find a balance that works for you.


Q: How do you reign in your nerves when you are speaking in public? Specifically, how do you keep your voice from shaking?

 “I let mine shake,” Lawyer responded, adding, “You have to recognize that it is going to happen. Have a glass of water ready, take a sip and keep going.” Lawyer continued by explaining that turning red, or having a shaky voice or hands, is just your body’s way of responding to the adrenaline pumping through your system in preparation for your talk. The best speakers use that emotion to convey their message to the audience. This is especially true for public service professionals, who may be speaking about changes that affect people’s lives or communities. Harnessing that emotion in a positive, compelling way is just as important as having data or supporting evidence.


Q: How do you get rid of ‘um’ and ‘uh’ when giving a speech?

First, it is important to familiarize yourself with the way you speak. This means recording yourself or having a friend or colleague provide notes on your speaking habits. The second piece is to understand that ‘um’ will happen from time to time, and it is crucial not to let it throw you off.

“It’s a pausing thing, a thinking thing,” Lawyer noted. It occurs when your brain is ‘spinning’ to get to where it needs to be, and your mouth is filling in that space in between.

But the more you practice, the more engaged you are, the less your brain will need to ‘spin,’ which provides openings for the dreaded ‘um’ and ‘uh’ to spill out. 


Q: What is the best way to engage the audience? Should you tell jokes? What if it falls flat? 

Ressler noted that most jokes fail during speeches and presentations because the speaker doesn’t commit fully to the joke. “If you go for it, go big. Tell the joke, laugh, have fun, show that it is clearly a joke,” Ressler advised.

But jokes are not the only way to engage an audience. “Don’t feel obligated to do a joke, but definitely do something that’s fun and lighthearted to kick things off,” Ressler noted. Tell a story, kick things off with an icebreaker, or toss some questions back into the audience.   


Q: How do you prepare? Specifically, how much should you practice? Do you use notes?

Both Ressler and Lawyer noted that they do not read off note cards. Instead, each emphasized practicing the presentation all the way through more than once before delivering a speech. “I have essentially given the talk enough times that it’s memorized, and then I have my slides to bring me back to the big feeling or big idea I am trying to convey,” Lawyer said. Ressler agreed, but noted that he was less likely to have his speech memorized. “I’m big into the Lawyer method – love the content, love the audience, rock it and have fun,” Ressler added.


Cure the lonely public speaking blues by watching the archived webinar in its entirety. You can listen to more answers to audience questions, as well as learn from two public speakers with years of experience. 

Additional Resources

  • NextGen Speaker Contest - Enter here to be one of five lightning speakers at NextGen 2014. Share an innovative project at your agency or a great idea to revolutionize government.
  • Managing Stress: Michael Lawyer referenced a must-watch TED talk on making stress your friend. Click here to watch it. 
  • Design Matters: Steve Ressler recommended reading these presentation design reference books by Duarte. He also recommended SlideShare, a free repository for slideshow presentations. Each day the top slides are featured on the site. 

Originally posted on by Adrian Pavia

This is the second installment in a three-part series covering GovLoop’s virtual training event on effective public speaking. The first installment collected top tricks for improving your public speaking, while the third installment answered frequently asked questions about effective public communication



I love developing expertise on a topic.

It’s a multitude of reasons: I enjoy the research, and the process of slowly putting the pieces together to discover the subject’s many intricacies. 

But when I have to share my newfound knowledge in front of an audience, the delight turns into dismay.  

It seems I’m not alone. On Tuesday March 11th, GovLoop hosted a virtual training session on how to become a better public speaker. You can view the archived webinar in its entirely here. The event opened with an audience poll, which revealed that public speaking causes anxiety in 85 percent of respondents.

Michael Lawyer is okay with that statistic – and the anxiety. The difference between a good speaker and a bad speaker, he says, is what you do with those feelings.

Lawyer is the Special Assistant to the Human Capital Officer at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and was a panel speaker on the webinar.

“I don’t want you to just be good at public speaking,” Lawyer said. “I want you to learn to love public speaking.”

Public speaking is often thought of as an ineffective form of communication, since studies have shown that audiences generally remember very little of the content after it’s delivered. Lawyer argued that these findings miss the point, contending that public speaking is not about the transmission of detailed information.

“What it is there for is to convey emotion, feelings and a way to understand the world,” Lawyer said. It’s in this space that speakers can have the greatest impact on their audiences.

But in order to get there, you have to get good at public speaking. “The secret to getting good at public speaking falling in love with it,” Lawyer maintained.

His thought? This love has three main components: your content, audience and nerves.

Loving Your Content 

The good news is that most public servants are halfway there. They’re committed to public service and they have a constituency that has entrusted them with their well-being. As such, they already have the passion and expertise needed to deliver good content.

But Lawyer contends that this is only half of the equation. The second half is harnessing all of that emotion and that passion. The secret to merging these two, according to him? A lot of work — and practice, practice, practice. 

Lawyer went into greater detail in the webinar, offering some very entertaining advice from two unlikely sources – “This American Life” producer Ira Glass and musician Neil Diamond. You can hear more about loving your content by listening to the archived webinar in its entirety. 

Loving Your Audience

Loving your content goes hand-in-hand with loving your audience. As Lawyer explains, his earliest experiences with public speaking failed to capture that appreciation for his audience: “I was so immersed in my content that I’d get the opportunity to speak and would just bomb it all over the audience,” Lawyer related.

Instead, your goal should be to help the audience understand what they need to know. “What you need to do is anchor your talk and make it easy to digest,” Lawyer explained.

Loving Your Nerves

This is perhaps the most difficult part of transforming your approach to public speaking. It’s also the most essential.

“People who have learned to get good at public speaking get excited for that [emotion],” Lawyer said. “You start getting pumped up about getting nervous because you know [your body] is getting ready for ‘go time.’”

If this seems like transforming all of your anxieties into positive, invigorating emotions is a daunting task – well, it is. But the exciting part is that this is true for everyone. There aren’t people who were simply born to stand in front of their peers and deliver compelling speeches. We all have to work at it, which means we all can get good at it. “The more you love it, the more you will work at it, and the more you work at it, the more you will love it,” Lawyer added.  

Watch the full webinar here.

Additional Resources

  • NextGen Speaker Contest - Enter here to be one of five lightning speakers at NextGen 2014. Share an innovative project at your agency or a great idea to revolutionize government.
  • Repurposing Stress: Michael Lawyer referenced a must-watch TED talk on making stress your friend. Click here to watch it. 
  • Design Matters: Steve Ressler recommended reading these presentation design reference books by Duarte. He also recommended SlideShare, a free repository for slideshow presentations. Each day the top slides are featured on the site. 

The Top 12 Tips to Improve Your Public Speaking

Originally posted on by Adrian Pavia

This is the first installment in a three-part series covering GovLoop’s virtual training event on effective public speaking. The second installment provided lessons for repurposing your emotions to help deliver a stronger speech, while the third installment answered frequently asked questions about effective public communication.

They spoke with authority. They seemed calm and relaxed. Most importantly, they genuinely seemed to be having fun.

In truth, all of the GovLoop Public Speaking Tips and Tricks webinar speakers were nervous. So what was the main difference between their inward feelings of anxiety and outward projections of confidence?

The answer is simple: practice, practice and more practice. That, and each person employed important public speaking tips and tricks they’ve picked up during their careers.

Fortunately, you too can learn strategies for effective and compelling public communication.  Yesterday, March 11th, GovLoop hosted a virtual training session on the oft-dreaded subject of public speaking.  Moderated by Emily Jarvis, Online Editor at GovLoop, the panel featured the following speakers:

Steve Ressler, Founder and President of GovLoop

Michael Lawyer, Special Assistant to the Human Capital Officer, Department of Housing and Urban Development

You can view the archived webinar here. In the meantime, read the following for 5 of the top public speaking tips and tricks highlighted in the virtual session. Want the full 12 tips? Make sure to click through to the webinar for the full set.

Steve Ressler’s 12 Public Speaking Tips

In the years since founding GovLoop, Steve Ressler has delivered 400 speeches and talks. He’s spoken to audiences as varied as students in Russia to geospatial tech professionals in San Diego. During that time, Steve has culled together a short list of tips that have transformed his ability to deliver compelling, memorable speeches – and we’re sharing a few them with you below.

1.    Be Energetic

While you should know your material, be wary of scripting, which can sap the energy out of your delivery. “Regardless of the topic of the speech…make sure that you can light up that room,” Ressler said. “Bring some energy. Bring some fun.”

2.    Speak Slower

Speaking quickly is a natural tendency when delivering a speech; it’s normal to be nervous and just want to get the whole thing over with. But it’s important to try to resist that tendency. “The best public speakers speak twice as slowly as they normally do and they take great pauses,” Ressler explained.  “They let it linger and let you pause and think.”

3.    Keep it Short and Simple

Another natural inclination is to try to pack in as much content as humanly possible into your allotted time. This is especially true when you are passionate about the subject matter.  Unfortunately, this often leads to speeches that are too long, and which then often end up being rushed because you have so much to get through.  “Keep it really simple, crisp and easy for people to take notes and remember,” Ressler advised.

4.    Tell Your Audience Your Plan

“People need to be reminded multiple times of what they are going to learn,” Ressler noted.  So to capture the attention of your audience and really highlight what they are supposed to take away, don’t be afraid to spell it out beforehand. Tell people what you are going to talk about, do it, and then close with another brief reminder.

5.    Think About Your Audience

You audience will vary between talks. More critically, you may be dealing with different levels of knowledge, cultural backgrounds and experiences within a single group. So take a moment to put yourself into the shoes of your listeners and incorporate these lessons into your presentation. This could be as simple as shortening your speech by 10 minutes because you are the last speaker in a long line of talks and you know everyone is exhausted.

These 5 tips can hopefully serve to jumpstart your experience in public speaking. To see all 12 of Steve Ressler’s top public speaking tricks (and much more), make sure to click through to watch the webinar.

Additional Resources

  • NextGen Speaker Contest - Enter here to be one of five lightning speakers at NextGen 2014. Share an innovative project at your agency or a great idea to revolutionize government.
  • Managing Stress: Michael Lawyer referenced a must-watch TED talk. Click here to watch it.
  • Design Matters: Steve Ressler recommended reading these presentation design reference books by Duarte. He also recommended SlideShare, a free repository for slideshow presentations. Each day the top slides are featured on the site.

By: Emily Rolkowski, Federal Government Employee

I applied and was accepted to the 2013 Spring GovLoop mentorship program. As a federal employee working in Chicago, I desperately wanted to meet more peers working in the same sector. Even though I participated in the mentorship program remotely, I still gained a tremendous amount from it. Learning that there was another mentee from Chicago, I quickly connected with her and we set up monthly meetings. This connection was not only beneficial while in Chicago, but she is also my roommate in DC.

My mentor and I held biweekly phone calls which allowed me to see my ultimate goal very clearly. As much as I searched for federal jobs, what I really wanted was to live in Washington DC and feel a part of the public service community. At the end of the mentorship program, I decided to fly out to Washington DC and volunteer at the NextGen conference. This would not only allow me to meet the amazing people who will attend the training summit, but give me a chance to finally meet my mentor with whom I have spoken for the past 5 months.

The NextGen Conference truly changed my life. The speakers were incredibly inspiring and I felt as though they were talking directly to me. During one of the sessions, the panelists discussed that it is not always about climbing the ladder, but rather smartly mapping out your future. After that presentation I decided that upon my return to Chicago, I will speak with my manager and ask to be transferred to our Washington DC office. As soon as I made that decision, all the other pieces of the puzzle fell into place.

Since moving to Washington DC I have joined a handful of organizations and all my connections to those clubs are individuals I had either met at the NextGen conference, or those who were mentees of the GovLoop program. The GovLoop mentorship program is truly valuable and allows for the mentees to honestly speak about their goals. Even though some agencies do offer internal mentoring programs, I do not think the participants are comfortable discussing their long term goals or obstacles they are facing with someone in a higher position from the same agency. Internal mentorship programs are good when wanting to obtain a sponsor. However, a mentor is someone with whom you share the good, the bad and the ugly – that will only be successful if it is done outside of your current place of employment.

** ‘Why NextGen’ is a series of stories. All of these stories are written and provided by past NextGen attendees. Their experiences are true to their career journey.


Public Speaking Tips & Tricks

Originally posted via GovLoop’s Stephen Peteritas.

People’s number one fear is public speaking…number two is death.

In the words of Jerry Seinfeld, “This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.”

We want to help reduce this fear with our NextGen Training: Public Speaking Tips & Tricks on March 11th at 2:00 PM ET.

Click Here For More Information On The Training

Being an effective presenter is required for anyone who is (or aspires to be) in a leadership position. In some cases, your next presentation could be career-defining.

In just an hour we’ll help you learn how to:
Gain confidence before you hit the stage
Give you tips and tricks on how to prepare and practice for a better delivery
Avoid the biggest public speaking mistakes

Register Here For March 11th Webinar Training

Hope to see you March 11th, and prepare to have your next presentation not be a matter of life or death!


Agencies – Send a Cohort, Reap the Rewards

Send more people, get more value! The agencies who have sent a group of people, have had more success with growth and implementation upon their return to the office.

Here are a number of key advantages to sending a cohort:

-Critical mass for ideas – by having a large group of folks learning similar ideas, they can come back to their agency and have enough momentum to make real changes

-Tightens relationships between the cohort – By going through an experience like this together, members of a cohort strengthen their bonds which helps their working relationships to get work done when they get back to the office.

-Position yourself as an agency of choice – I received quite a few comments from Nextgen attendees where they said X agency must be awesome to work at, as they sent so many young feds to attend. By treating your young feds well, they are more likely to stay with your agency but also they will tell their friends and NextGen attendees will start looking at you as an agency of choice to work

If you are interested in sending a group, please email the event director for special group discounts.